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Miami Blues

Director – George Armitage – 1990 – US – Cert. 18 – 97m

Fred Ward produced and starred in an adaptation of the first of Charles Willeford’s Hoke Moseley crime novels in 1990

****

Review from TNT magazine, March 1990, republished here on the death of actor Fred Ward, May 2022

To anyone already familiar with Charles Willeford’s hard-boiled novel Miami Blues, writer/director George Armitage’s screen version races through its opening so fast that numerous elements which set up what follows are omitted. Add to this the unlikely casting of Fred Ward (also one of the executive producers here) as Police Sergeant Hoke Moseley and Alec Baldwin as the killer Freddy Frenger Junior, and the end result is quite some distance from the original.

Frenger’s initial assault on a Krishna at Miami Airport – who dies of shock after his finger is broken by being bent backwards – is reduced to a one-off incident rather than an important link in Willeford’s complex chain of events. Prostitute/college student Susan Waggoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh), with whom Junior gets involved, is no longer the sister of the Krishna victim. Gone, too, are Junior’s observations about Japanese haikus, in which his readings of the Japanese poems reveal his utter paucity of vision.… 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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Till We Meet Again (Yue Lau, 月老)

Director – Giddens Ko – 2021 – Taiwan – Cert. 15 – 128m

***1/2

A man ripped from his true love by a fatal lightning strike partners with another dead person as gods of love linking romantic souls together – out in cinemas on Friday, March 11th

A young man is struck by lightning in a thunderstorm and dies. When you die, it seems, you have the choice of reincarnating and going through another life (in whatever form that might take for you) or of staying behind as a god to help people during their lifetimes. For instance, you could be a god of love who helps people to find their soul mate.

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At least this is what happens to lightning-struck Alan Shi (Kai Ko from The Road To Mandalay, Midi Z, 2016) who discovers parts of his face burned off and allocated a bureaucratic caseworker in echoes of movies as diverse as Beetlejuice (Tim Burton, 1988) and After Life (Horokazu Kore-eda, 1998). After some indecision and an encounter with the none too happy girl Pinky (Gingle Wang from Detention, John Hsu, 2019) in the next compartment, he opts to become a god of love and starts training as such.… Read the rest

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Silent Night

Director – Camille Griffin – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

**

Families of old school friends gather for Christmas at a country house knowing they will die as a deadly mist envelops the planet – out in cinemas on Friday, December 3rd

Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) prepare to have her old school friends over for Christmas at her mother’s isolated house in the country. Their son Art (Roman Griffin Davies from Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi, 2019) helps mum prepare the dinner while his two twin brothers Thomas and Hardy (his real life brothers Gilby and Hardy Griffin Davies) play on the PlayStation rather than get in the bath as they’ve been told. Simon tells the boys they are allowed to swear, but not to be rude to Kitty (Davida McKenzie), daughter of Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) and Tony (Rufus Jones from The Ghoul, Gareth Tunley, 2016), even though she’s known to be difficult. Art fails this injunction spectacularly, swearing at her when she decides to watch his brothers get out of the bath, and is forced to apologise.

Additional guests include lesbian couple Bella (Lucy Punch, writer of Judy And Punch, 2019, Mirrah Foulkes) and Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste from Killing Eve, TV series, creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 2018-22) plus school heartthrob James (Sope Dirisu from His House, Remi Weekes, 2020) with his young American girlfriend Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp) in tow.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Annette

Director – Leos Carax – 2021 – France, US – Cert. 15 – 141m

****1/2

Musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – on MUBI from Friday, November 26th

Although billed as a musical, this may actually be closer to opera given that even though it starts as a story about two people deeply in love, it veers into very dark territory.

And yet framing all that, and underscoring it throughout, is the sheer pleasure of writing / composing songs… and, for that matter, performing them. The opening song is So May We Start while the closer, as the credits roll, is It’s The End. (For added enjoyment, watch 90% of the audience leave before the last song starts. Or in my case, 10% of my fellow critics.)

The former starts with the band, the brothers Mael (singer Russell and keyboard player / composer Ron, profiled in recent documentary The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright, 2021) and a backing band in a recording studio in an invitation for the proceedings to get going, swiftly joined by the film’s two leads, while the latter ends with seemingly the entire movie cast and crew walking through the countryside hoping we’ve enjoyed the show and asking us to tell our friends if we did so.… Read the rest

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Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness (Hebeun: Haengbokeui Nararo, 행복의 나라로)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2021 – South Korea – 101m

*****

A meds thief on the verge of arrest and an escaped convict inadvertently steal money from gangsters closing gala with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which ran in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

The sexual frankness of director Im’s earlier A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003) and The Housemaid (2010) is absent from his latest, a producer-suggested project more lightweight than his usual fare which nevertheless achieves a degree of poignancy. Its template is the German film Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Thomas Jahn, 1997) in which two terminally ill men steal a car so that one of them can visit the sea before he dies, the car unfortunately belonging to a gangster and carrying a quantity of cash in the boot.

Writing his own script around this loose premise, Im makes the man who wants to see the sea a convict, inmate 203 (Choi Min-sik from The Tiger, Park Hoon-jung, 2015; Lucy, Luc Besson, 2014; New World, Park Hoon-jung, 2013; Lady Vengeance, Park Chan Wook, 2005), sent to the hospital for an MRI scan where it’s discovered he has a brain tumour and two weeks to live.… Read the rest

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Live Action Series Television

Hellbound (Jiok)

Director – Yeon Sang-ho – 2021 – South Korea – 6 x 50m

*****

Angels state the time of death then demons come and cart people off to hell, generating a circus of fundamentalist, religious activity – series airs on Netflix from November 19th – reviewed for All The Anime

The new Netflix series Hellbound (2021) from South Korea’s Yeon Sang-ho, creator of zombie outings Seoul Station (2016) and Train To Busan (2016), began life as a webtoon some 11 minutes in length back in 2002. The first three x 50-minute episodes (out of six) have played a number of international film festivals.

Those first three episodes – screened at the London Film Festival where this writer saw them – explore notions of sin, eternal punishment and damnation. As in Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael’s hilarious and highly inventive comic, religious satire The Brand New Testament (2015), people are sent the date and time of their death then dazedly watch the moment approach on their mobile phones. After its announcement, when the time comes, three black and white, Hulk-like demons turn up to pound the person into a pulp, suck out their life force and burn the corpse… [Read more]

I review Hellbound (eps 1-3) for All The Anime.… Read the rest

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Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

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Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

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Still The Water (Futatsume no Mado, 2つ目の窓)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2014 – Japan / France – Cert. 15 – 119m

*****

Two childhood sweethearts living on an island beset by storms must come to terms with the mortality and fallibility of their mothers – on BFI Player (rental) and MUBI.

The ocean roars and then, just as suddenly, is quiet. The wind howls through the trees, then sunlight is glimpsed through tranquil branches. Welcome to the sleepy yet storm-battered island of Amami Oshima, part of the Southern Japanese Archipelago, a place of paradox and contradiction seen through the eyes of two teenaged friends and their families.

Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga aka Junko AbeSamurai Marathon, Bernard Rose, 2019) loves swimming in the sea. Her friend Kaito (Nijiro MurakamiIsle Of Dogs, Wes Anderson, 2018, Destruction Babies, Tetsuya Mariko, 2016) is less keen – he’d rather be in the safety of a swimming pool. She uses him and his bicycle to get around the island if and when he’s nearby. She is rather keen on him and would happily have sex. He can’t explain why, but is less enthusiastic about the idea.

Once we move on to their parents, there are fascinating observations regarding motherhood – especially in the light of adoption / unwanted pregnancy outing True Mothers (Naomi Kawase, 2020) – and, to a lesser extent, fatherhood.… Read the rest