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Features Live Action Movies

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

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Sing 2

Director – Garth Jennings – 2021 – US – Cert. U – 110m

****

The song and dance impressario tries to duplicate his local success in the entertainment capital of the world – animated sequel is out in cinemas on Friday, January 28th

Following successfully putting on a talent show in his local theatre in Sing (Garth Jennings, Christophe Lourdelet, 2016), impressario koala Buster Moon (voice: Matthew McConaughey) wants to move up to the big leagues and stage a musical in Redshore City, the entertainment capital of the world. He thinks it’s his big break when a talent scout, the tall, thin dog Suki Lane (voice: Chelsea Peretti), visits a performance, but has reckoned without her withering appraisal that he’ll never make it outside his local town.

Her put-down, however, only serves to spur him on to attempt the impossible: he corrals his unbelieving performers to Redshore City by coach, rehearsing a new play on the back with them seat en route, for an audition at the prestigious Crystal Tower Theater in front of its owner, wolf Jimmy Crystal (voice: Bobby Cannavale), who presses the ‘reject’ buzzer on most audition acts within about three stanzas and frequently far less.

Crystal’s rejection of Moon’s act on grounds of looking for something more original prompts the troupe’s precocious pig Gunter (Nick Kroll) to spout off, to Moon’s initial horror, about his own idea for a sci-fi musical set in Outer Space and starring the reclusive, rock star lion Clay Calloway (who hasn’t been seen in public for 15 years since the death of his wife and muse).… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Weald (Somaudo Monogatari, 杣人物語)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 1997 – Japan – 73m

***

Serial elderly residents of Japan’s Yoshino Mountains go about their daily business and talk about life’s joys and hardships – online in the UK as part of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) from Monday, January 17th to Sunday, February 6th, 2022.

Prior to making such features as The Mourning Forest (2007), Sweet Bean (2015) and Japan’s 2021 International Oscar entry True Mothers (2020), independent Japanese film maker Kawase cut her teeth on intensely personal, low budget documentaries, first shorts then both shorts and features.

For this her third feature length documentary, Kawase took her camera up the Yoshino Mountains at the Southern end of Japan’s two island mainland to shoot the lives of elderly locals recording them and presenting her footage as a series of straightforward portraits. There’s no attempt to impose any narrative or outside agenda; rather, her camera gives space to these people to talk, reminisce and, ultimately, simply to be.

A woman who has spent her entire life farming a small plot of land keeps herself to herself, claims she isn’t lonely and that she likes being at home. “How much longer can I do this,” she asks the camera as she walks up a woodland slope.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sweat

Director – Magnus von Horn – 2020 – Poland, Sweden – Cert. 15 – 106m

****

An Instagram fitness celebrity struggles with the tension between constant self-promotion and everyday existence – on MUBI from Friday, September 17th

This opens with Sylwia Zajac (Magdalena Kolesnik) leading a demanding workout with a crowd of dozens of her fitness fans in a shopping mall. It closes during her appearance on the ‘Good Morning TVN’ TV chat show with her doing a wake up workout for the camera. Somewhere in the middle, when she visits her mum Basia (Aleksandra Konieczna) for a birthday gathering where she meets Basia’s new boyfriend Fryderyk (Zbigniew Zamachowski), she plays her latest fitness DVD on the big plasma TV she’s just given her mum – who thinks it’s too big for her living room.

Hitchcock once described movies as “life with the dull bits left out” but this Polish movie takes a completely opposite approach, with writer-director Van Horne interested in the dull bits in between the star’s high profile presence. Sylwia is as much an Instagram personality as a fitness trainer and has “around 600 000” followers on the platform.

During the opening workout, she addresses her fans as “my loves”, the mode of address she consistently uses in her posts and, it turns out, in life, and after the workout she publicly takes a selfie.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Settlers

Director – Wyatt Rockefeller – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 103m

****1/2

The lives of a one-child family living on a farm on Mars are changed forever by the arrival of a hostile outsider – out on digital platforms from Friday, July 30th

Reza (Jonny Lee Miller from Regeneration, Gillies Mackinnon, 1997; Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, 1996) and his wife Ilsa (Sofia Boutella from Climax, Gaspar Noé, 2018) have emigrated to Mars to take over a farm which they now run with the help of their nine-year-old daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince from The Florida Project, Sean Baker, 2017). Growing vegetables and rearing pigs, they seem very happy with their lot, not least because that the Earth the couple left behind was not in a good way… We hear very little about it beyond a conversation where Remmy learns her parents never encountered whales or elephants, only dogs, even as that planet hangs in the sky as a constant reminder of where they came from.

The light has a reddish glow. Everything around the compound is dirt, rocky outcrops and occasional areas of bush and scrub. There is no-one else around apart from the three of them.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Truffle Hunters

Directors – Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw – 2020 – US, Italy – Cert. 12a – 84m

*****

Italians carry out a trade their families have pursued for generations with their beloved, faithful and trained dogs – in cinemas from Friday, July 9th

Cinema is about many things. Among them, it’s about the camera, the eye, the ability to observe, to watch. This facet of the medium is immediately apparent as The Truffle Hunters opens with a long shot of a picturesque section of hillside forest, its foliage a cacophony of greens and yellows. We become aware of movement in the vegetation. Two dogs are moving around separately, purposefully, under the watchful eye of their human master, an old man. He – and his animal entourage – are truffle hunters, seekers after the delicacy that is the white truffle which has refused all attempts at systematic cultivation and grows only in Langhe, Piedmont, Northern Italy. For mysterious reasons on which no-one agrees.

These men (they’re all men) are now in their seventies and eighties. They all have their own, jealously guarded territories for hunting the truffles. We watch as a younger man tries to prize the whereabouts of likely truffle finds out of an older man, but he won’t have it.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Marona’s Fantastic Tale (L’Extraordinaire Voyage De Marona)

Director – Anca Damian – 2019 – France – 92m

****

Winner of the André-Martin Award for a French Feature Film at Annecy 2021.

Marona’s Fantastic Tale opens with a device straight out of film noir. The main character has been hit by a car and is dying in the arms of an old friend who got to him a few seconds too late to prevent disaster. Him isn’t correct though: both characters are female. Marona is a dog while late teenager Solange is her owner.

The narrative flies in the face of the idea that people take on pets and everything is hunky dory thereafter. Marona never has a stable life. She’s the last of nine puppies in the litter, so her mother names her Nine as if knowing that her daughter may not be around long and that a new owner will likely give her a new name.

The last to be born is the first to be given away as Marona is placed with her father, a haughty Argentianian mastiff of high birth. Marona only lasts about a day there and ends up walking the streets.

As part of my Annecy 2019 coverage, I review Marona’s Fantastic Tale for DMovies.orgRead the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Cruella

Director – Craig Gillespie – 2020 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 134m

****

A 101 Dalmatians prequel. How a girl named Estella unleashed her darker personality of Cruella de Vil – in cinemas from Friday, May 28th

Disney’s project of mining their pantheon of animated classics for live action feature material continues. Here it’s the turn of Cruella de Vil, the villain from 101 Dalmatians (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman, 1961), and a very clever reimagination it is too. It commences with her birth and cleverly conceals certain significant details of her upbringing only to reveal them at the tale’s climax and give everything that went before a completely new spin.

Estella (Tipper Siefert-Cleveland) is the daughter of Catherine (Emily Beecham). Befriended at school by Anita Darling (Florisa Kamara) but picked on by bullies, Estella gives as good as she gets, fights back and gets expelled for figuratively blotting her copybook. 

So her mother pays a visit to former employer the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) seeking help. But thanks to Estella’s refusal to do as she’s told and stay in the car and her dog Buddy’s strikingly similar refusal to obey Estella this plan goes fatally wrong.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Old Man And A Dog (老人與狗)

Director – Ryan Chan Hon-yan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

*****

A security guard nearing the end of his life is given an ageing, dying dog by his grandson – online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

When they’re in the hospital waiting for grandpa while he sees the doctor, Ka Chun (Karson Chan Ka Hei) asks his mum (Ivy PangTracey, Li Jun, 2018), “how come grandpa doesn’t have a dog?” There follows a huge row between Ms. Chan and the medical staff when she learns they’re not operating on her father because he’s signed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ papers. The boy, meanwhile, stands beside his grandpa’s bedside. His grandpa (Paul Carr) is on a ventilator.

The elder Mr. Chan visits the hospital on his own. The clock that’s fallen off the wall in the doctor’s office seems to presage his own demise. His boss (Toby Cheng) at the security firm tells him not to come in, he’s too ill. The firm will compensate him, so there are no financial issues.

Ka Chun visits grandpa at home – bringing with him a dog called (somewhat hilariously to English ears) Ah-fuk.… Read the rest

Categories
Live Action Movies Shorts

Jellyfish

Director – Che Chun Hei – 2018 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 30m

****1/2

A gangland sniper’s shooting of his designated target leads to a friendship with a dog and further unauthorised killings – online and Free To View in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

Gangland boss Shing (Lau Kong) sets up a sniper (Bowie Chan Wai Wing) in an apartment in a block overlooking a patch of waste ground. Every day, a man walks his dog over this patch. The man is the sniper’s designated target. So the sniper sets up his gun, passes the time, tries to get a decent signal on the TV, smokes, relaxes on the sofa, anything but look through his viewfinder and watch the man and dog pass.

Finally, the order “today” comes though his pager from Shing. One shot and the guy is dead. The dog just sits there, remaining where his master fell. A black van rolls up. Two guys. One has a revolver and thinks of shooting the dog, but doesn’t do it.

The sniper feels for the dog. He takes it food.… Read the rest