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The Forgiven

Director – John Michael McDonagh – 2021 – UK/Ireland – Cert. 18 – 117m

****

A wealthy alcoholic driving to a rich school friend’s party in the Sahar desert accidentally kills a local and sparks a cross-cultural incident that will have profound consequences for him – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 2nd

Wealthy married couple David and Jo Henninger (Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain) travel to Tangier in what he calls “ah – l’Afrique” to attend a rich friend’s party at his isolated home in the middle of the Sahara. This involves driving some 400 miles through poorly mapped desert terrain. David is a high-functioning alcoholic (“I’ve always thought the high-functioning should cancel out the alcoholic”, he says) who indulges himself from a bottle before he starts to drive and the couple argue a great deal. Perhaps their relationship is nearing its end.

En route, they get lost, but in the middle of the night eventually find the turn off. They stop, bicker, then start up again and immediately hit local teenager Driss (Omar Ghazaoui) who has stepped out in front of the stationary car to sell them a fossil. Burying his ID, they bundle his dead body into the car hoping that their host will know what to do.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Free Chol Soo Lee

Directors – Julia Ha, Eugene Yi – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 83m

****

Imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, Korean American Chol Soo Lee became a figurehead for a protest movement, something he felt unable to live up to – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 19th

In San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1973, Korean loner Chol Soo Lee was arrested and subsequently convicted for a gang murder. While it’s true he had foolishly borrowed a gun off a work colleague a few days previously and accidentally discharged it into his apartment wall giving himself a police record, he was not the murderer. He was identified on the flimsiest of premises by unreliable witnesses, possibly not helped by white cops who wanted to convict a felon for the crime and consign the case to history.

On what was to be his last journey through the outside world before many years in prison, he heard the Tower of Power song “You’re still a young man” on a car radio crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It resonated. As the years passed in prison, his mother abandoned him. He had fallen for a Japanese American girl he’d met Jean Ranko who subsequently told him in a letter that she had no romantic interest in him.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Feast (Gwledd)

Director – Lee Haven Jones – 2021 – UK (Wales) – Cert. 18 – 93m

**

The well-heeled wife of a local MP hires a maid to serve a meal for guests, but then things go horribly wrong – shot in the Welsh language and out in cinemas on Friday, August 19th

It’s unusual to see a film executed completely in the Welsh language, and for pulling that off, the makers of The Feast are to be congratulated. Unfortunately, apart from that element and its striking visual palette, this fails to engage.

In rural Wales, well-heeled Glenda (Nia Roberts) is preparing to have guests over for the evening. Unfortunately, the girl she usually hires from the pub is unavailable, so she’s taken a replacement, Cadi (Annes Elwy), another girl who works there and comes highly recommended. However, Cadi is an unknown quantity and the woman doesn’t really trust her – and won’t do so unless Cadi can do something to earn that trust.

The woman and her family don’t feel like the sort of people you’d want to have anything to do with if you could avoid them. From Cadi’s point of view, she is most definitely not trusted by the woman who hired her, and feels most definitely an outsider.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

All My Friends Hate Me

Director – Andrew Gaynord – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 93m

***

A thirtysomething charity worker’s birthday weekend at the country house of rich friends from his student days turns into a nightmare – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th

Pete (Tom Stourton, who co-wrote this with Tom Palmer, with both of them producers here) heads off to the house of rich friends in Devon he hasn’t seen since university days for a weekend celebrating his 31st birthday. He doesn’t know the area well and gets lost en route. He’s a bit shocked to find a dog tied up in a field and far more shocked when he disturbs a man sleeping in a parked car who goes berserk and pursues him like a madman, causing the panicking Pete to rapidly flee in his car.

He parks by a gate and a local comes over. “Do you know the way to the manor?”, he asks. “Yes,” comes the reply. “Could you tell it me then,” he asks again. “Yes, I can,” comes the reply. Eventually, he gets the address out of the man. He later relays this story to his friends at the manor, unaware that the man, Norman (Christopher Fairbank), the local who looks after the grounds, has just come in the door behind him.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Offering (L’Ofrena)

Director – Ventura Durall – 2020 – Spain – Cert. 18 tbc – 111m

**

When two former lovers run into one another, the fallout theatens to derail both their marriages – out in cinemas, virtual cinemas and VoD from Friday, July 30th

This starts off with webcam porn actress Rita (Verónica Echegui) giving a come on to an unseen viewer in American English, which is pretty odd because everything else is in Spanish. Surely not a cheap shot by the producers to sell the film to the English-speaking world? Anyone who thinks they’re in for an internet exposé along the lines of Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, 2018) is however in for a disappointment. Apart from a line later on where Rita is asked her job and replies, “I used to be a porn actress”, the whole sequence is gratuitous.

More relevant is the scene’s interruption by the arrival of Jan (Alex Brendemühl), sent by a relative to deliver the first of the narrative’s two eponymous offerings, a tall box containing a message or artefact from a deceased loved one. This has echoes of the Violet Evergarden anime series and its spin-off feature (Taichi Ishidate, 2020) in which the heroine works for a company which helps dying or terminally ill clients to write a letter or in some cases a lengthy series of letters to their loved ones to be delivered after the client’s death.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Muscle

Director – Gerard Johnson – 2019 – UK – Cert. 18 – 110m

****

Pump it up! A man dissatisfied with his life comes under the influence of a manipulative bodybuilding trainer – on Sky and NOW from Tuesday, June 1st

Newcastle, UK. Simon (Cavan Clerkin) is at a dead end working days in a dodgy telesales job he hates and coming home at night to his partner Sarah (Polly Maberly) who no longer loves him. Whatever attracted her to him has gone. Looking for a way to move forward, Simon sees a man walk confidently out of a doorway and on realising it’s a local gym, decides to join. It’s not long before he’s under the influence of fellow member Terry (Craig Fairbrass), an ex-forces type who takes him under his wing as a personal trainer to help him transform his body. Under Terry’s influence, Simon changes his diet, reduces his drinking with colleagues to virtually nil and is suddenly achieving top sales at work. None of that is enough to stop Sarah leaving him.

Terry is however not what he initially seems. He suggests first he then his friend Crystal (Lorraine Burroughs) move into Simon’s house to help pay the bills then instigates increasingly orgiastic parties with his friends as if the place was his own.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Synchronic

Directors – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead – 2019 – US – Cert. 15 – 102m

*****

Two New Orleans paramedics stumble upon a designer drug causing weird hallucinations and inexplicable deaths in this mind-bending science fiction yarn – – on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, April 5th

The prior films of creative partners Benson & Moorhead (The Endless, 2017; Spring, 2014; Resolution, 2012) inevitably set the bar high since they’ve consistently astonished audiences with their mind-bending narratives. Normally I watch films once then review them, but on this occasion I’ve had the privilege of wilfully watching Synchronic three times in the last year or so. This in itself tells you something about this film’s narrative pleasures. And given that Marvel recently signed the duo up to direct episodes of Moon Knight for Disney+, it would seem Hollywood is of a similar opinion.

Its extraordinary story involves two New Orleans paramedics whose characters completely engage you and pulls you in. Which is just as well because they stumble on some pretty strange stuff in the course of their work – in particular, calls involving trauma and sometimes death in the aftermath of bad drug trips.

It opens with a couple at home taking some hallucinogenic drugs and seeing / experiencing some extremely weird goings on.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Ice Cream Truck

Director – Megan Freels Johnston – 2018 – US – Cert. 15 – 96m

**1/2

A housewife newly moved in to a suburb is unnerved by the creepy, local ice cream man and van… with good reason, as it turns out – on VoD and DVD from Monday, March 1st

Having just moved back into the neighbourhood where she grew up, Mary (Deanna Russo) should probably be worried that it looks a lot like the location of classic shocker Halloween (John Carpenter, 1979) with its pavements bordering lawns and hedges around residential houses. (There’s now prowling, gliding camera here though – the shots are mostly static.)

The locality also now boasts the traditional American ice cream truck, a simple, slow moving van which still serves exactly the same traditional ice cream that it has for generations. The ice cream man himself (Emil Johnsen) seems almost a parody of his profession, addressing both children and adults alike with archaic lines like, “hello there, young fellow.”

She takes an immediate dislike to nosy next-door neighbour Jessica (Hilary Barraford) but nevertheless accepts an invitation to a barbecue where it’s promised drink will flow celebrating the recent graduation of local couple’s son Max (John Redlinger – who feels a lot older than 18) who she meets on her way to the party as he hangs out with his girlfriend Tracy (Bailey Anne Borders) to smoke pot.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Babyteeth

Director – Shannon Murphy – 2019 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 118m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 14th and on BFI Player from Monday, December 7th

Uniformed schoolgirl Milla (Eliza Scanlen) stands on a platform ill at ease with her classmates. The train comes in. Before she can move to get on it, someone has knocked into her rushing past to stand close to the passing train. It’s Moses (Toby Wallace), unkempt in shorts and tee shirt. He asks her for money. He points out she has a nosebleed, cradles her on the ground, puts his tee over her mouth and jaw… to catch the blood.

Milla’s psychiatrist father Henry (Ben Mendelson) has a home session with a patient that turns into sex on a desk. This is his wife Anna (Essie Davis) who is on medication and has mental problems. They have another problem as a family: their daughter has cancer.

When Milla brings Moses into her parents’ comfortable suburban family home, they take an immediate dislike to him. This reaction is compounded by his habit of stealing medications from their home to sell later on the street. Nevertheless, he will be around the home more and more and by the end will be to all intents and purposes living there with Henry and Anna’s consent.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

County Lines

Gang life

County Lines
Directed by Henry Blake
Certificate 15, 90 minutes
Released 4 December

*****

‘Do you know what an acceptable loss is?’, a voice asks a teenage boy. ‘In your business, you’re the acceptable loss.’ County Lines may be this year’s hardest hitting movie, a British drama about a vulnerable boy groomed into working for county lines drug networks. A tough film to watch that deserves to be widely seen, not least by teenagers, it’s an uncompromising look at a pressing social issue… [Read more]

Read the full review in Reform.

In cinemas and on VoD platforms including BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and IFI Online.

Trailer: