Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The End We Start From

Director – Mahalia Belo – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 102m

***1/2

As parts of the UK are flooded and submerged by an ecological disaster, a woman births a baby she must then bring up – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

On the one hand, this starts off with a woman (Jodie Comer) giving birth and then experiencing the process of being a new mother, with all the joys and stresses that entails. On the other, this shows the UK being overtaken and flooded by an eco-disaster, and how people respond to that situation both individually and en masse. The second scenario is reminiscent of any number of disaster and / or science fiction movies about flooding, apocalypse or dystopia (When Worlds Collide, Rudolph Maté, 1951; Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, 2006; Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds, 1995): if you approach this movie expecting something like that, you’re going to be disappointed, because although that element is very much present in the film, it’s little more than the backdrop.

It plays more like a road movie, in which the heroine – the husband having dropped out of the narrative towards the end of the first reel – meets a series of people on her travels, each of whom offer their own individual insight into the state of things and how the new mother might move forward.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Wish

Directors – Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn – 2023 – US – Cert. U – 95m

**

The ruler of a kingdom where wishes can come true, undone by assuming the role of gatekeeper, morphs into a tyrant – latest Disney animated feature is out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 24th

A believer in the idea that wishes can come true, a man trains himself in the art of sorcery and, with his wise and faithful wife at his side, sets himself up as King Magnifico (voice: Chris Pine) of the Mediterranean island of Rosas with his wife Queen Amaya (voice: Angelique Cabral). The king wants to create a land where wishes truly can come true, and to that end he has his subjects hand over their most heartfelt wish for safekeeping on their 18th birthday, after which the wish is erased from the wisher’s mind. He examines the wishes for himself, decides which ones would benefit society, and periodically has ceremonies where a citizen is granted their wish.

It’s a heavy workload, though, and now he’s advertising for a new assistant. Soon to be 18 teenager Asha (voice: Ariana DeBose) applies, although the King is rumoured to be difficult to work with.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Plan 75

Director – Chie Hayakawa – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 113m

**1/2

Dystopian drama Plan 75 posits a plan whereby Japanese people can voluntarily have themselves terminated after age 75 and examines some of the resultant social fallout – out in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, May 12th

Sedate classical piano music is playing on the soundtrack. The image – out of focus, could be looking down a corridor. After a long wait, a man in a T-shirt and jeans walks, in focus, into picture foreground. There appears to be blood on his arm and he is carrying a shotgun. Ahead of him, as it now comes into focus, the corridor floor is sparsely scattered with objects: a cup and a bowl, an old person’s walking stick with four legs, something else which we can’t quite make out. He washes at the sink. Another corridor – a fallen walking stick, a pair of slippers, an abandoned bathrobe or perhaps a towel, a collapsed, half-folded wheelchair, wheel still spinning. T-shirt and jeans with shotgun descends the stairs. After a contentious voice over, T-shirt and jeans waits a long while, then points the barrel of the shotgun at his head and uses his feet to pull the trigger.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Junk Head

Director – Takahide Hori – 2021 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

****1/2

A cyborg is dropped from the planet’s surface into its depths by his immortal but impotent masters to investigate the beings who have evolved in the levels below – feature length, stop-frame epic is out in UK cinemas on Monday, April 24th

More, I suspect, by accident than design, Junk Head looks and feels like the wandering little sister of Mad God (Phil Tippett, 2021). The latter was made by a top Hollywood stop-frame effects animator as a 34-year, independent, labour of love, the former by a Japanese visionary as a seven-year, independent, labour of love. Hori had worked on puppetry at Tokyo Disneyland and became obsessed with stop-motion, inspired by Motoko Shinkai’s one-man debut 2D animated production Voices of A Distant Star (2002). He made a half hour version Junk Head 1 in 2013, and used it as a building block to this version, which he completed in 2017.

The production mode of stop-frame can be a solitary one involving one person alone in a room with a camera and armatured puppets, the approach typified by Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, the bolexbrothers, Jiri Trnka, Kihachiro Kawamoto, the early David Lynch and many others – a single person or very small number of people producing the work, either complete films or stop-frame effects sequences within live action films.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Strawberry Mansion

Directors – Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney – 2020 – US – Cert. 12a – 91m

*****

A strange and compelling tale, at once whimsical and terrifying, of a tax inspector sent to audit an artist’s dreams – out in UK cinemas and on demand Friday, September 16th

Nothing can prepare you for the experience of watching this extraordinary film. A man sits in his strawberry-coloured kitchen. In his strawberry-coloured fridge are strawberry-coloured boxes of food and strawberry-coloured cartons of drink. A knock at his door opens to reveal billowing clouds floating into the room like fog. It’s his friend who has arrived with a golden bucket container of fried chicken pieces and a bottle of cola. They eat and enjoy.

If you think this is weird, the scene turns up on the man’s video alarm clock. And the film has barely got started. Our hero’s work today involves a long drive to a lone house in the middle of a field. At the door, James Preble (Kentucker Audley) announces to the elderly occupant Arabella “Bella” Isadora (Penny Fuller) that he’s here to audit her dreams. As government legislation of seven year requires. She has over 2 000 VHS tapes, but it seems she hasn’t yet got around to fulfilling the legal requirement of the latest software.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies Shorts

Memories
(Memorizu,
メモリーズ)

1/ Magnetic Rose (Kanojo no Omoide, 彼女の想いで)

2/ Stink Bomb (Saishu Heiki, 最臭兵器)

3/ Cannon Fodder (Taiho no Machi, 大砲の街)

Directors

– 1/ Koji Morimoto, 2/ Tensai Okamura, 3/ Katsuhiro Otomo

– 1995 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 113m

*****

Executive producer Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime anthology adapts three of his dystopian-themed manga stories into animation – out on Blu-ray from All The Anime, Monday, 12th September, details below review

The film that made Otomo’s name and the one with which he’s most frequently associated is Akira (1988). It wasn’t his first film, though. Previously, he was one of nine directors who collaborated on the uneven portmanteau Robot Carnival (1987), a compendium of different animated stories based around robots of various types. One of the other directors was Koji Morimoto.

Memories is loosely similar – it only has three stories (and three directors), allowing each of the segments a bit more room. Its three episodes are very different yet perfectly complement each other. Otomo directed the third section Cannon Fodder.

Parts of the roughly two hour Akira drag, while Otomo’s later Steamboy (2004) gets lost within a massive set piece after a near perfect opening first reel or so.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Undergods

Director – Chino Moya – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 18+ – 91m

**1/2

Overlapping narratives unfold within a mysterious city which resembles something out of Eastern Europe – in cinemas from Monday, May 17th

In a grey urban environment resembling an unspecified city somewhere in Eastern Europe or possibly Russia, two lorry drivers go about their daily routine of picking up corpses from the street. These two characters form the frame story of what is to follow, although exactly what that is isn’t clear from the narrative’s meandering nature. There are stories within stories wherein the character you think is the main character is suddenly usurped by a different character. Several times over.

That’s a pity because they are potentially very interesting stories, so it’s frustrating to see them consistently half-baked. The anthology film is, after all, a tried and tested format and this film attempts do something radical and new with it. The problem is though, to make that form work you really need to understand its rules before you play around with them, break them, or abandon them altogether. This film seemingly lacks that understanding, or thinks you can throw away the framework and everything will still somehow work.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Live Action Movies Shorts

The Uncertain Kingdom

Twenty shorts

The Uncertain Kingdom
Various UK directors
Certificate 15, 20 x ten minutes approximately

*****
Released online from 1 June: Amazon, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema, Google Play, and iTunes.

Why watch one film when you can watch 20?

The Uncertain Kingdom is an amazing collection of shorts covering various aspects of contemporary UK life before the Covid-19 crisis. Most are around ten minutes, with the shortest under three and the longest just over 20. There’s not one duff film in there. The films’ separate stories span such art forms as animation, dance, documentary and drama and such issues as colonialism, healing, heritage and class.

I review The Uncertain Kingdom for Reform.

Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

Snowpiercer
(Seolgungnyeolcha,
설국열차)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2013 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 126m

South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer (2013), which never had a theatrical release in the UK during its original, international run, finally appears in the UK on home video. Described as “High Rise on a train” by Mark Kermode, it’s an uncompromising dystopian vision, and we can safely attribute its appearance on Blu-ray to a double whammy – Bong’s Oscar-winning box-office hit Parasite, and the broadcast this month of the long-delayed Snowpiercer TV series.

An ecological catastrophe has turned the Earth into a frozen wasteland. The only people still alive are those on a train annually circling the globe. Some are there because they’re rich, others because they were lucky enough to get on board. The rich live in luxury at the front while the poor are kept in squalor at the back. Two members of the lower orders lead a revolt, travelling the length of the train to eventually confront the train’s wealthy industrialist creator. Like the more complex Parasite, it pits ordinary people against wealthy elites.

I review Snowpiercer for All The Anime.