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All of Us Strangers

Director – Andrew Haigh – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 105m

*****

A gay Londoner travels by train to visit his parents in Sanderstead, following their deaths in a car crash when he was 12 years old – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 26th

He (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a London tower block. Not only is he the single occupant of his flat, there’s almost no-one else in the building. When he goes outside for a breath of fresh air, he sees a guy in the window of one of the other apartments. Later, there’s a knock at his door. It’s the guy (Paul Mescal), who is slightly drunk, comes on strong and tries to get himself invited in. The visitor’s name is Harry. The occupant introduces himself as Adam, but doesn’t let Harry in.

By day, Adam writes screenplays. But he’s got stuck, so after perusing some personal effects, he takes the train to Sanderstead. There, he watches a boy in a window. He follows a man across an area of parkland. Coming out of a shop, the man spots him and asks him to come over. You think it might be a pickup – but no, it’s his dad (Jamie Bell).… Read the rest

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The Holdovers

Director – Alexander Payne – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 133m

*****

A teenage pupil must remain at school in the care of his strict and widely despised Ancient History teacher over the 1970 Christmas holidays – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

A school movie with a difference: this takes place not in term time, but in the holidays. Specifically, a New England boys’ boarding school in the 1970 Christmas holidays, when, for various reasons, five pupils – three teenage, two younger – are unable to go home for the seasonal break, so must instead be looked after by a member of staff at the school. That task falls to ancient history teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), who is filling in for the member of staff who made up a story about a difficult family health situation to get out of being lumbered with the task. Paul is put upon for jobs like this because he’s the guy who can’t say no; he’s also a stickler for hard work and discipline who is disliked by fellow teaching staff and pupils alike.

Once the other staff and students have left, one other person remains on the premises: the head cook Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who has a connection to the institution beyond her employment.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Eileen

Director – William Oldroyd – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 97 m

***** Most of the film

* The last five minutes

NSFW

In the 1960s, the life of a young woman working in a Boston boys’ correctional facility is turned on its head by the arrival of a radical, young woman prison psychologist from New York – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 1st.

I don’t usually start with the ending of the film – and I’m not about to deliver a spoiler – but the ending of Oldroyd’s otherwise enthralling drama (if that’s the right term – I’m not sure it is) takes everything that has gone before which appeared to be building up to something and unceremoniously dumps it, as if there were another twenty minutes that had been written but not shot and an unsatisfactory ending had been tacked on.

There’s always that feeling with a truly extraordinary movie when you watch it for the first time that you don’t want the filmmakers to screw up and let go of whatever it is that’s working. Well, this one is extraordinary right up to the last five minutes, when it completely loses it. Prior to that, it starts out as one thing, turns into something else then swerves and moves about all over the place, taking the viewer with it on a strange, unpredictable journey.… Read the rest

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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

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Funny Pages

Director – Owen Kline – 2022 – US – Cert. US-R – 86m

***

A young, New Jersey comic book artist wannabe’s life becomes increasingly surreal when he leaves school and home to realise his desired career – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 16th

Guided by his art teacher Mr. Katano (Stephen Adly Guirgis), New Jersey high school student Robert (Daniel Zolghadri) is developing his voice as a comic artist, constantly comparing notes with fellow student / aspiring comic artist Miles (Miles Emanuel). Following Mr. Katano’s tragic and untimely death, Robert finds himself in court following his breaking and entering Katano’s classroom in an attempt to rescue as much of the man’s artwork as he can salvage before its otherwise inevitable, imminent destruction.

He alienates his middle class father Lewis (Josh Pais) by rejecting the offer of a lawyer friend to be his counsel, instead getting a state defendant Cheryl (Marcia DeBonis) who successfully gets the case dismissed. He gets on well with Cheryl and after the case is over, goes to work for her as an assistant.

Responding to an accommodation advert, Robert rents half a bedroom from Barry (Michael Townsend Wright), who lives in the sleazy basement of a well-to-do house in Trenton, sharing the room with established occupant Steven (Cleveland Thomas Jr.).… Read the rest

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Petrov’s Flu
(Petrovy V Grippe,
Петровы В Гриппе)

Director – Kirill Serebrennikov – 2021 – Russia – Cert. 18 – 145m

*****

The stream of consciousness existence of an urban, Russian comic book artist who has the ‘flu – out on VoD on Tuesday, June 28th

Despite being under the weather with the ‘flu, city dweller Petrov (Semyon Serzin) is trying his best to carry on as normal. Not so easy when you’re out of it. His nightmare starts with a bus journey. A nine-year-old girl kindly offers him her seat, but before he’s sat down, someone else seems to have taken it. A misogynist old man talks to the girl, telling her that often girls her age are married off and possibly already cheating on their husbands.

Before the old misogynist knows it, someone has had the bus stopped so the he can be thrown off, losing his false teeth in the process which Petrov picks up and which subsequently function like an intermittent Greek chorus, albeit one that doesn’t make any particular sense, throughout the remainder of the narrative. Then Petrov’s mate Igor (Yuri Kolokolnikov), who’s been pursuing the bus in a hearse, complete with coffined corpse, stops it to commandeer Petrov off the bus and into shooting an automatic rifle at victims as part of an impromptu firing squad.… 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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Bad Luck Banging
Or Loony Porn
(Babardeală
Cu Bucluc
Sau Porno
Balamuc)

Director – Radu Jude – 2021 – Romania – Cert. 18 – 106m

*****

A teacher becomes the subject of controversy after her husband’s private sex tape is posted online – on BFI Player Subscription from Friday, April 1st

Park your prejudices at the door! The opening three or so minutes of this will surprise or possibly even shock you – basically, hard core, live action genital sex images of a man and a woman, no holds barred. Real, not simulated. And real in other senses too – banging… knocking… (oh God, double entendres, can’t see how to avoid them here) on the door as our couple go at it… Her mother, one imagines, heard through the wall… “Emi, are you asleep” – Emi’s reply, “please leave us alone” – her mother again, “the little one hasn’t sanitised”…

Yes, it’s the world of immediate, post-lockdown pandemic, with people wearing masks and social distancing (or not, if they don’t get it). That wasn’t in the script but when director Jude was shooting in Bucharest: Romania was coming out of lockdown, and he decided to incorporate that into his film. Most contemporary films pretend we’re in a world where Covid-19 never happened or isn’t happening, so we just carry on as normal.… Read the rest

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Mouthpiece

Director – Patricia Rozema – 2018 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 91m

****1/2

Tall Cassie and short Cassie struggle to find the words for the eulogy for their mother’s funeral after she dies suddenly and unexpectedly – on MUBI from Thursday, March 24th

Christmas. Tall Cassie (Amy Nostbakken) and short Cassie (Norah Sadova) get drunk in a bar with friends, make their way home on their (one) bicycle and collapse into bed, ignoring the flood of mobile messages which they don’t pick up ‘til the next, sunny morning. They answer. It’s bad news. Their mum has died. Could she pick the flowers? Danny is going to do the speech.

But Cassie is the writer in the family and she won’t have it. She’ll do the speech herself. Danny isn’t capable of doing it. Although she doesn’t yet know what to say. And the funeral is in 48 hours.

Welcome to the world of sudden parental bereavement where things you know to be solid and true fold and crumple before your eyes. Where you are flooded with random memories as you try to make sense of it all. There are social rituals and structures supposedly to help you deal with this – ordering the flowers, choosing suitable clothes to wear, picking out the coffin, writing a eulogy for the deceased, attending a funeral service.… Read the rest

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The Shop
Around The Corner

Director – Ernst Lubitsch – 1940 – US – Cert. PG – 99m

*****

Two store employees argue constantly, unaware they are perfect for one another – out in cinemas on Friday, December 3rd

It’s quite a shock to see an old Hollywood classic for the first time and realise that you’re seeing one of the greats of which you’ve somehow never heard, but that’s exactly what happened to me watching this extraordinarily charming film which is likely to appeal to anyone who loves the much more familiar It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946). Both have stories that culminate at Christmas, both star American everyman James Stewart, and both give off what you might call a generosity of spirit. But in other ways, they’re two very different films.

For a start, this is not set anywhere in the US but rather in Europe, specifically the Hungarian capital Budapest. And then, its subject is not so much a town and the people who live there as a department store and the people who work there. There are no rich people dubiously making money by exploiting the poor: certainly there are bosses and workers, but the former treats the latter well and might reasonably be described as benevolent.… Read the rest