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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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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:

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Features Live Action Movies

Pixie

Director – Barnaby Thompson – 2020 – Ireland – Cert. 15 – 93m

***1/2

A free-spirited, rule-bending Irishwoman takes on a world of small-time gangsters from the inside – in cinemas from Friday, October 23rd

The West of Ireland. Fergus (Fra Fee) and Colin (Rory Fleck Byrne) have received a tip-off about a shipment coming to a country church. Colin has recently split with longtime girlfriend Pixie. Entering the vestry and presumably expecting gangster types, the pair are surprised to find four priests, two who are visiting from Afghanistan “to discover the lessons we’ve learned from dealing with the IRA”. Our two protagonists, suspicious that Catholics don’t exist in Afghanistan, find themselves in a shoot out. After which, they discover the bag containing the drugs shipment.

We’ve not even met the central character yet. Pixie (Olivia Cooke) adores and dotes on her gangster stepfather Dermot O’Brien (Colm Meaney) but hates and distrusts her quick-tempered stepbrother Mike. She heads out to drink tequila in a bar where, coincidentally, Frankie (Ben Hardy) and Harland (Daryl McCormack) are picking up pills from Daniel (Chris Walley). Frankie always fancied Pixie and, encouraged by Daniel’s lewd, drugs-fuelled suggestions regarding Pixie’s sexual proclivities, Frankie, with Harland in tow, drives out to Pixie’s remote house at two in the morning.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

The Passer-by (De Passant)

Director – Pieter Coudyzer – 2020 – Belgium – 16m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

This is a film about our interconnectedness or lack of it. And impossible to review without spoilers – be warned before you read on. Thomas is a typical teenager studying for exams. He needs to be woken up in the morning by his mum or he’d lie in bed all day. Confronted with a textbook of maths equations, he’d rather keep drawing that portrait he’s been working on for his friend Karen. His mobile rings. It’s Karen. He agrees to take the drawing round and meet at the bus stop. He tries to sneak out, but mum spots him. He’s forced to admit it’s Karen. Don’t be long, his mum admonishes him.

And out he goes on his bicycle, stopping en route to chat to a neighbour working in his garden. A little further on an irritating, yappy little dog runs after him. Thomas moves across the road narrowly missing an oncoming fellow cyclist. He apologises. He keeps going. A car pulls out. He hits it, goes flying across the bonnet, lands on the pavement beyond. His drawing flies up into the air, carried on its currents.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

First Love (Hatsukoi)

Director – Takashi Miike – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 108m

*****

A boxer with no fear of death. Japanese yakuza, Chinese triads. A bag of drugs. A girl sold into prostitution. Miike orchestrates his potent cocktail with pace, panache and energy – cinemas Friday, February 14th, home video Monday, February 24th

And yet, as its release date implies, First Love is also a Valentine’s Day-friendly date movie. Not, admittedly, your average date, but Miike has never been your average director. High-profile titles released in the West like Dead or Alive, Ichi the Killer and Yakuza Apocalypse give an certain idea of what he’s about – life, death and gangsters. This is only one facet of a career which also boasts samurai epics and a musical. If you count his made-for-video features of the early 1990s, Miike has now made over a hundred films. Many are highly entertaining and one or two, such as Audition, the sweet romantic film that turns into a terrifying horror thriller, might justifiably be termed great. First Love may not quite be Audition, but it’s arguably his best film for years… [Read more]

Full review at All The Anime.

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Features Live Action Movies

Detour

Director – Christopher Smith – 2016 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

****1/2

Should I stay or should I go? Smart thriller wherein a man’s life is literally split in two as he chooses between an ill-advised road trip to Vegas or staying at home with his hated stepfather – now on DVD and VoD

Opening with a lengthy, single locked off camera shot title sequence of a woman pole dancing, this then switches to law student Harper (Tye Sheridan – Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg, 2018) visiting his comatose mother in hospital. He’s convinced his stepfather is cheating on her using out of town business trips as a cover. Hitting a bar to drown his sorrows, he overhears a conversation in which Johnny Ray (Emory Cohen – Brooklyn, John Crowley, 2015) explains how his girlfriend Cherry shot a man who cut her face. Johnny Ray berates Harper for eavesdropping and drags him to the pole dancing joint where Cherry works and whisky gets Harper talking.

Brief echoes of Strangers On A Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951) are played up in the film’s trailer (at the bottom of this review) as Johnny Ray offers to take care of his stepdad at a price.… Read the rest

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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.