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Features Live Action Movies

Blithe Spirit

Director – Edward Hall – 2020 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

***

Adaptation of Noël Coward’s supernatural comedy in which a remarried man is tormented by the ghost of his late, first wife – on VoD from Friday, January 15th

Noël Coward’s original play has always been something of an audience pleaser with its slightly loopy medium Madame Arcati who materialises the late wife or a remarried man who then finds he’s stuck with the unwelcome ghost and his second wife at the same time. The likeable if lightweight property has been filmed numerous times over the years and you might wonder, does the world really need another version?

Anyway, here it is. Edward Hall has had the good sense to cast Judi Dench as Arcati and she clearly has a lot of fun playing the role, just as the audience will enjoy her playing it. The screenplay takes liberties with Coward’s text, but they’re quite smart liberties. It turns main protagonist Charles Condomine (the appropriately sprightly Dan Stevens) into a screenwriter struggling to write a film for his producer. His late and recently rematerialised first wife Elvira (Leslie Mann) all but wrote the series of novels which made his name as a writer and which still living second wife Ruth (Isla Fisher) believes he himself wrote.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

SCOOB!

Director – Tony Cervone – 2020 – US – Cert. PG – 93m

****

Available on VoD from Friday, July 10th and BD/DVD Monday, September 28th

I grew up watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons which would play in, if I recall, the 5.20 slot on the BBC. Some were better than others. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70) was one of the better ones. It had five memorable characters who each week would investigate some mystery suggesting monsters or the paranormal for which there would always turn out to be a rational explanation as the perpetrator was unmasked at the end, usually with the words “and I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t have been for you kids.”

The original cartoon TV series (1969-70) has spawned numerous spin-offs over the years including a so-so live action / special effects theatrical feature Scooby-Doo (2002) and a sequel. Which brings us to SCOOB!, an animated theatrical movie once again bringing the franchise to the big screen.

It starts off with a couple of tried and tested big screen adaptation tropes. One, taking one of the characters and having them somehow meet up with the others for their first adventure. Two, an origin story.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies Music

Bill & Ted Face The Music

Director – Dean Parisot – Writers – Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson – 2020 – US – Cert. PG – 91m

****

Party on, dudes! The two friends return having failed over 25 years to write the song to unite all of humanity and prevent the universe unravelling – in cinemas from Wednesday, September 16th

William ‘Bill’ S. Preston esq. and Theodore ‘Ted’ Logan (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) have somehow failed to fulfil their destiny and become losers. 25 years on from their two earlier outings Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (Peter Hewitt, 1991). Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyns has been reduced from selling out stadium gigs to playing open mike nights. 

Then they are taken in a time travel pod to 2700 A.D. to discover that because they never did write that song to unify all humanity, the fabric of space and time threatens to unravel by 5.17pm that very day in 2700. 

Their wives Elizabeth and Joanna (the fifteenth century English princesses from the first film here played by Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays) have had enough and are going to couples’ counselling… so Bill and Ted travel back to join them, inadvertently making the situation worse.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Yes, God, YES

A plea for honesty

Yes, God, YES
Directed by Karen Maine
Certificate 15, 77 minutes
Released digitally on 17 August

Despite its provocative title suggesting a racy sex comedy about religion, this is actually a gentle independent film exploring the everyday inadequacies of American teenagers growing up within a conservative Catholic tradition. Essential life issues, including sex, truth telling, lying and religion, come up.

There’s a rumour going round Alice’s Catholic high school that she (Natalie Dyer) has been “salad tossing”. Having no idea what this means, she spends much of the film trying to find out. Impressed that Nina (Alisha Boe) has been on a four-day camp and seems to have her life together, Alice signs up.

The camp takes place at a Catholic retreat centre staffed by a nun and Father Murphy (Timothy Simons). Alice is immediately attracted to Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz), the camp leader and school football team captain. When Nina asks Alice to surrender her watch and mobile phone “because you’re on Jesus’ time”, Alice keeps her phone hidden to play games on it… [Read the rest]

I review Yes, God, YES for Reform.

Available to view on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Mr. Vampire

Director – Ricky Lau – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

If your knowledge of vampire lore comes from Western movies about Dracula you’re in for some real surprises with the 1985 Hong Kong movie Mr. Vampire. This is the movie that put the Chinese hopping vampire on the map.

It’s evening, as mortuary assistant Man-choi (Ricky Hui) checks a number of upright standing corpses with talismans affixed to their foreheads. All present and correct. Behind him a corpse without a talisman advances towards him. By the time he’s realised this is fellow mortuary assistant Chau-sang (Chin Siu-ho) playing a prank, the resultant air flow has blown the talismans off the other foreheads and eight vampires are hopping towards them, Man Choi runs to fetch his employer, Master Gau (Lam Ching-ying)…

I review Mr. Vampire for All The Anime to coincide with the film’s UK Blu-ray release from Eureka! See also my Manga Mania review published back in the nineties to coincide with the film’s UK VHS release from Made In Hong Kong.

Clip from Eureka! version:

Trailer (Cantonese, no subs) here:

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Features Live Action Movies

Love & Peace

Director – Sion Sono – 2015 – Japan – Cert. PG – 117m

*****

Blu-ray available at Arrow Video’s Third Window Films Shop.

Sion Sono’s wonderfully insane, four-hour art-house epic Love Exposure (2008) made great waves on its UK release and for this writer, the extraordinary Love & Peace (2015) is a welcome return to form.

The wishy-washy title is perfect for this particular film. Tokyoite Ryoichi Suzuki, 33 (Hiroki Hasegawa) quit being a rock star at 21 after no-one showed up to his first three concerts, then took a job as a corporate clerk. A national disgrace, bullied by fellow office workers. Then he buys a turtle from a street vendor before being kidnapped by a younger rock band while his turtle, after he flushed it down the toilet, begins to grow to gargantuan size…

I reviewed Love And Peace for All The Anime at the time of its Blu-ray and DVD release. Trailer here:

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The Big Snit

Director – Richard Condie – 1985 – Canada – 10 mins

*****

Both sweet and funny. The first five minutes look like exactly where we are now under the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s basically the story of an old married couple who not only love each other dearly but also get on one another’s nerves. He looks at her Scrabble tiles while she’s out of the room. He is obsessed with sawing and tunes in to the TV Show, ‘Sawing For Teens’. She, meanwhile, compulsively removes her eyes from her face and shakes them.

Five minutes in, neither of them are watching when an emergency announcement interrupts regular TV programming. If the first five minutes are about a couple isolated in their home, the second five are an end of the world scenario with nuclear missiles flying through the sky and people panicking outside in the streets. Our central couple are, however, blissfully unaware of this, caught up as they are in their own domestic squabble. Richard Condie’s drawings, colour and overall visual sense are an absolute delight and the film is hilarious. Ten minutes well spent.

Nominated for Best Animated Short at the 1985 (58th) Oscars.

Free to watch on the National Film Board of Canada’s (NFB) channel.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Mr. Vampire

Director – Ricky Lau – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 94m

*****

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania to coincide with the film’s UK VHS release from Made In Hong Kong. Running time as on VHS sleeve. See also my All The Anime review coinciding with the 2020 Eureka! Blu-ray.

SCREEN GEMS

MR. VAMPIRE

The Far East views vampires through completely different cultural baggage, the extraordinary result of which can be seen in seminal Hong Kong period horror outing Mr. Vampire (1985) – which spawned several sequels and influenced countless genre outings both in Hong Kong live action and Japanese animation.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Encounters Of The Spooky Kind (1980) sees director Sammo Hung spend the night in a haunted house where he encounters various undead manifestations. It’s no surprise that Hung acted as producer on the later Mr. Vampire, where director Ricky Lau distilled Chinese cadaver / vampire mythology into a subsequent industry staple. As Lam Ching-ying so clearly explains in Mr. Vampire: “There are good men and bad men…corpses and vampires…this corpse is turning into a vampire.” Producer and director went on to make Mr. Vampire 2, 3 and 4, all with corpse‑busting star Lam Ching-ying who returned a fifth time under a different director for the present day Magic Cop / Mr.Read the rest