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Features Live Action Movies

The Batman

Director – Matt Reeves – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 175m

****

A reinvention of the popular superhero alongside his iconic villain adversaries in a Gotham City run by corrupt elites and gangsters – out in cinemas on Friday, March 4th; home premiere available to rent from Tuesday, April 19th

The posters for Warner Bros.’ second Batman movie Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992) announced it with the names of three iconic characters: The Bat, The Cat, The Penguin. They could have done similar here, although The Bat, The Cat, The Penguin, The Riddler doesn’t quite work as an animal-themed slogan. However, The Batman is a very different movie – and not just because of the addition of the Riddler.

Of all the superheroes, Batman is arguably the richest in terms of raw material and its potential for reinvention. This new film is quite unlike the Nolan films which preceded it which in turn is quite unlike the Burton films which preceded them which are quite unlike the art deco animated Batman TV series which in turn is quite unlike the sixties TV series which preceded that.

In movies as in comics, Batman, Gotham City and its accompanying cast of characters appear ripe for reinvention in a way that no other superhero and their world quite does.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore

Director – David Yates – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 142m

***

In the 1930s, Newt Scamander, Albus Dumbledore and others attempt to prevent the despotic wizard Grindlewald from seizing power in a wizard’s election in J.K. Rowling’s third Fantastic Beasts movie – out in cinemas on Friday, April 8th

It’s difficult to know where to start with the third of J.K. Rowling’s self-penned Fantastic Beasts productions. A plethora of characters who apart from a few main ones quickly get confusing, some genuinely fantastic beasts as you would hope and some truly great underlying ideas poorly served by a narrative that doesn’t seem to understand basic storytelling in cinema. Perhaps if I’d immersed myself in all the books and films and whatever else is out there, it would make more sense (and no doubt this is what much of the dedicated fan audience will do), but as a standalone film, even one that’s a part of an ongoing saga, it makes little sense, although certain sequences are terrific.

The big ideas here are built around a creature called a Qilin (pronounced chillin) – a beast borrowed from Chinese and Far Eastern mythology – specifically an orphaned newborn Qilin that looks a lot like a golden version of Bambi, a resemblance underscored by the fate meted out to its mother in the opening reel.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Sheep Without A Shepherd (Wu Sha, 误杀)

Director – Sam Quah – 2019 – China – Cert. 15 – 112m

*****

A family stands together when their daughter kills the local police chief’s son who is both a rapist and blackmailer – available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland.

This opens with a prison break in which the escapee ends up interred in a coffin next to the corpse of the man who was trying to get him out. That turns out to be a story told by Li Wiejie or Jie for short (Xiao Yang), an insatiable watcher of detective and crime thrillers. The film lays its cinematic cards on the table almost immediately by referencing Hitchcock, montage, sound effects, excitement and The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994). Sheep Without A Shepherd is in thrall to the West’s suspense movies and plays out like one while at the same time retaining its distinctive Chinese character with its emphasis on the importance of family ties and loyalty.

Jie and his wife (Tan Zhuo) run a small store in Thailand. Their daughter Ping known in the family as PingPing (Audrey Hui) persuades dad to fund her to go to summer camp where she is drugged and videoed being gang-raped by privileged brat Su Cha (Beety) and his pals.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Memories To Choke On, Drinks To Wash Them Down (Ye heung, yuen yeung, Sham Shui Po, 夜香・鴛鴦・深水埗)

Directors – Leung Ming Kai, Kate Reilly – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 77m

**1/2

Four stories from contemporary Hong Kong comprise three dramas and a closing documentary segment – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

An anthology of four stories from contemporary Hong Kong – three fiction and one documentary – showing the city’s diversity: Forbidden City, Toy Stories, Yuen Yeung and It’s Not Going To Be Fun.

Forbidden City features an old lady (Leong Cheok-mei) and her immigrant carer (Mia Mungil). The first time ‘grandma’ mentions that her son is now a big shot but used – as the not quite right subs put it –to scratch his wee-wee when he was young, it’s funny. The second and third times, it becomes obvious she has dementia and keeps repeating the same phrases over and over. Mia initially refuses to accompany her charge to a reunion in town, but after taking a video of the old lady swearing that she won’t take her carer to her son’s office (“if I do that he’ll fire me,” the carer says), she agrees to accompany her on the bus into town.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Totally Under Control

Directors – Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger – 2020 – US – Cert. 12 – 123m

***1/2

Documentary looks at the Trump administration’s handling of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US – in cinemas from Friday, October 23rd and on iTunes, Amazon, Google, BFI Player, Curzon, Sky, Rakuten, Virgin. On BBC iPlayer from Sunday, November 1st.

This is a documentary shot, as it were, on the hoof. It constitutes a record of near-contemporary events as they unfolded in the recent past, in two of three very specific geographic locations. Two or three because the subject is the early months of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic in the origin of which the third country, China, specifically the city of Wuhan, played the major part. But this film isn’t really about China beyond that country’s being the source of the infection.

Nor is it really about the second country, South Korea, here quite reasonably held up to the audience as a paragon of virtue in its handling of the crisis. The film is really about the first country, the US, during this period, which had a playbook ready and waiting should such a crisis come to pass.… Read the rest