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Features Live Action Movies

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent

Director – Tom Gormican – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 105m

****

Down on his luck, actor Nick Cage (playing himself) accepts the job of spending time at a fan’s house for one million dollars, unaware that his host is a crime lord pursued by the CIA – on digital Friday, July 8th and SteelBook, 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD Monday, July 11th

This unusual entry in the ‘actor playing themselves’ genre is effectively the movie equivalent of fan fiction. That might sound disparaging, but that’s not at all what I mean.

Obsessed with the actor Nic Cage and his movies, writer-director Gormican has written this: a movie in which a character called Nick Cage (Nic Cage playing a version of himself) is an actor down on his luck, desperate to get a part for which he’s just auditioned and which he believes will revitalise his flagging career. He needs this part. He’s heavily in debt. His ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) wants him to spend more time with their teenage daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen), specifically, listening to her, since he spends most of his time spouting off about his own career in particular or movies in general.

When the part he’s after falls through, he decides to take the other offer from his agent Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), the one where he gets a million dollars for hanging out with a rich fan.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi, 聲の形)

Director – Naoko Yamada – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 130m

****

Groundbreaking and innovative Japanese drama about school children, bullying, remorse, isolation and self-loathing – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now in the Special Programmes section (A Special Screening for the Hard of Hearing)

Egged on by Naoka Ueno (voice: Yuki Kaneko) then later shunned by classmates for his bullying of new girl in class Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami), who happens to be deaf, Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino) stops interacting with them and withdraws. This is represented onscreen by the extraordinary graphic device of an ‘X’ over the faces of his fellow schoolmates whenever they appear. It’s a very powerful way of expressing his isolation. Five years on, wrecked with guilt about his treatment of Nishimiya, he learns sign language and decides to befriend her and to make amends…

This film may well broaden your idea of what animation is capable. It’s nothing like Disney and equally it’s light years from Japanese SF action fest Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988) although it likewise started life as a manga and concerns teenagers.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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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Features Live Action Movies

Monsoon

Director – Hong Khaou – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12a – 85m

****1/2

A man who has lived in England for 30 years returns to Saigon and Hanoi to discover the Vietnam his late parents left behindin cinemas and on Vimeo, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon and elsewhere from Friday, September 25th

Saigon, present-day Vietnam, when bicycles and motorbikes swarm along the roads like purposeful, scurrying ants. Kit (Henry Golding) returns there in an attempt to discover the Saigon and Hanoi of his childhood before his now deceased parents left for England 30 years ago. He checks into the posh area of town, putting the wooden box containing his mother’s ashes on a bare shelf in his sparsely furnished, luxury apartment.

High tech housing blocks give way to the less affluent and more traditional blocks where most urban Vietnamese live. Kit meets with Lee (David Tran), with whom he remembers playing as a child and to whose family Kit’s mother loaned a considerable sum of money to help them start a small business, now a small mobile phone shop. Lee wants to repay the loan to Kit.

Kit goes on an English language tour in an attempt to track down some of the places from his childhood, but so many locations have changed or disappeared.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Schemers

Director – Dave Mclean – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 91m

**1/2

A local Dundee lad and his two mates get into the promotions end of the music industry and find themselves dealing with gangstersin cinemas from Friday, September 25th

Dundee lad Davie (Conor Berry) arouses the ire of a man who catches Davie sleeping with the man’s girlfriend. Cue a couple of on foot chase sequences and, subsequently, Davie’s running into the guy at a local football game where the guy breaks Davie’s knee, putting his leg in plaster and his football career in limbo.

In hospital, Davie becomes smitten with student nurse charged with his care Shona (Tara Lee) and running into her later at a dancing venue asks her out. In the process, he talks himself up as a promoter of music gigs, so has to make good on that promise if the date with Shona is to happen. She’s keen on Simple Minds, so that’s the first act he books.

So he enlists his two mates – the happy-go-lucky Scot (Sean Connor) who has his finger in various dodgy and likely illegal dealings and the more responsible (and married) John (Grant Robert Keelan).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Melancholic (メランコリック)

Melancholic

Director – Seiji Tanaka – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

Melancholic

Director – Seiji Tanaka – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 15m

*****

On Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD, rental on Apple TV and Amazon from Monday, September 7th

Quiet, unemployed Tokyo University graduate Kazuhiko (Yoji Minagawa, also the film’s producer) lives with his similarly introverted parents. When one night his mum prematurely empties the family hot tub, he pays his first visit to the local bathhouse where he runs into chirpy classmate Yuri (Mebuki Yoshida) who talks him into attending their upcoming high school reunion.

At that event, he’s a fish out of water while everyone else gathers around the nondescript student Tamura (Yuta Okubo) who has since made good as a businessman and investor. Then Yuri rescues Kazuhiko and the pair sit conversing deeply on the staircase ignored by everyone else. A series of dinner dates follows, romance blossoms and before you know it he’s staying overnight at her flat.

Encouraged by Yuri, Kazuhiko gets himself one of two attendants’ jobs at the bathhouse run by the genial Mr. Azuma (Makoto Hada). Kazuhiko never wanted to go to work for a top company like most graduates and the work suits his temperament.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Alice

Director – Josephine Mackerras – 2019 – UK, France, Australia – Cert. 15 – 103m

****

Available in the UK on Amazon Prime, Barbican On Demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 24th

Working mum Alice Ferrand (Emilie Piponnier) has everything she wants in life – a devoted husband François (Martin Swabey), a young son – until one day her credit card is stopped. No money for shopping. No money from the cashpoint.

A visit to the bank reveals that François has been systematically withdrawing money from the joint account for the last year or so. Not only that, but he hasn’t been making the payments on the couple’s flat for the same period. The money from her parents is gone and she is weeks away from losing her home.

When she phones him, she gets his voicemail. Desperate to know what’s going on, she goes through his desktop computer and finds phone numbers. Some of these lead her to a high end escort agency who, as it happens, are holding job interviews. She goes along in the hope of finding out more information and is offered a job. Confronted with a daunting repayment schedule to save her home, after much soul searching she signs up in her new career.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Shelter

Director – Paul Bettany – 2014 – US – Cert. 18 – 105m

*****

Released on DVD in 2016.

First time British writer director Paul Bettany (better known as an actor) dedicated this to “the couple who lived outside my building”. Illegal Nigerian, Muslim immigrant Tahir (Anthony Mackie) and American, agnostic junkie Hannah (Jennifer Connelly) are two homeless people who collide on the streets of New York. A catalogue of pitfalls awaits them – theft of belongings, debt, prostitution, coming off drugs, illness, the cost of medicines, a winter twenty below zero. Both have lived lives that have gone drastically wrong. In a quieter moment they talk of belief and God. This compelling film really gets under the skin of what it means to be homeless.

Trailer:

Published in Reform in 2016 as part of a Film and Video discussion starters compendium of ten reviews.

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Features Live Action Movies

Gladiator (1992)

Director – Rowdy Herrington – 1992 – US – Cert. 15 – 101m

**

UK theatrical release: June 26th, 1992.

PLOT

Hitting on hard times, loner Tommy Riley (James Marshall) is living in a low life neighbourhood on Chicago’s South Side. High school days are punctuated by fights during the breaks; at night, Pappy Jack (Robert Loggia) rides around eyeing street brawls in search of new boxing talent. The moment he sets eyes on Riley defending himself in an alley, Pappy Jack signs him for a Friday night fight – to which Riley agrees in the face of loan sharks cornering him regarding payment his out-of-town father’s (John Heard) debts. Riley senior is attempting to put an alcoholic past (due to his wife’s untimely death) behind him, and believes that his current travelling salesman job will bring him back up from the social depths. The son’s match pays off the father’s immediate debts, but Tommy finds himself unwillingly trapped in the boxing game by Pappy Jack’s promoter boss Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy) when the latter buys Riley senior’s loan sharks’ debt so that he “owns” the lad. But our hero isn’t about to take all this lying down; he’s a fighter!… Read the rest