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American Fiction

Director – Cord Jefferson – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 117m

*****

A black, American college Literature professor, unexpectedly finds celebrity via an anonymous alter-ego when he writes a cliché-ridden book about ‘the black experience’ – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 2nd

College professor Thelonius ‘Monk’ Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is a black academic at a white university. He teaches literature. While he’s teaching a class on the literature of the American South, a young, white, female student objects to the “N-word”, walks out of the class, and – in due course – gets him put on an unpaid Sabbatical. He’s a published novelist who hasn’t had anything published for years, including a manuscript currently doing the rounds through his agent Arthur, whereas other, white, faculty members publish work he considers beneath him yet which also sell in volume in airports.

His Sabbatical ties in with the fact of his going to a Literature Festival in his home city of Boston, where he finds his seminar poorly attended because it’s up against one by rising publishing sensation Sintara Golden (Issa Rae), author of We’s Lives in Da Ghetto, which, when he investigates her session, turns out to be what he considers pandering to black stereotypes of living in poverty, crime and misery.… Read the rest

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In Broad Daylight
(Bak Yat Ji Ha,
白日之下)

Director – Lawrence Kwan Chun Kan – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 106m

***1/2

A woman uncovers a catalogue of abuse visited upon the residents of the Hong Kong care home in which her grandfather lives – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

This opens and closes to the strains of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and images of Hong Kong buildings reaching towards the sky.

Ling Hu Kay (Jennifer Wu from The Shadows, Glenn Chan, 2020; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018) enters the Rainbow Bridge Care Home in search of her grandfather Chow Kin-Tong (David Chiang from Election, Johnnie To, 2005; The Adventurers, Ringo Lam, 1995; Once Upon a Time in China II, Tsui Hark, 1992; Yes, Madam!, Corey Yuen, 1985; Shaolin Temple, Chang Cheh, Wu Ma, 1976) who she hasn’t visited for a while as she’s been abroad in Canada. He doesn’t remember her. Chow’s roommate is the amiable Shui (Woo Fung). Shocked at finding a dead rat in their room, she finds the manager Cheung Kim-wah (a memorable Bowie Lam The Crossing, 2014; Hard Boiled, 1992, both John Woo) who informs her both that while they are always understaffed, the place is like a family where everyone pitches in.… Read the rest

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Ferrari

Director – Michael Mann – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 130m

*****

As Enzo Ferrari’s racing team takes on a particularly tough race in 1957, the complexities of his private life prove equally challenging – out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, December 26th

You might reasonably expect a movie about legendary driver turned racing car manufacturer Enzo Ferrari to be about motor racing, and while that’s undeniably true of this film, it’s about far more. In essence, it’s a character study about a man’s life focused on a brief period of his career, in which complex professional and personal issues intersect.

Based on a script by the late, great Troy Kennedy Martin (1932-2009 – writer of The Italian Job, 1969; BBC TV series Z Cars, 1962 and Edge of Darkness, 1985), Mann’s film covers four months in 1957 building up to a particularly tough race, the Mille Miglia, the route for which covers 1 000 miles of open country roads.

Alongside the considerable challenges and demands of the race itself, the personal life of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) is nothing if not complex. His marriage to business-savvy Laura Garello Ferrari (Penélope Cruz) is on the rocks thanks to the death from muscular dystrophy in 1956 of their son Dino aged 24.… Read the rest

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The Old Man
And The Land

Director – Nicholas Parish – 2023 – UK – Cert. none – 100m

*****

As he works on the land, an aging farmer hears his two adult children argue about the future of the family farm – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Movies. You think everything’s been done, then along comes something you’ve never seen before. Or, in this case, seen or heard before.

The Old Man in question is an English farmer (Roger Marten) whose family have worked the land for generations. He’s getting on in years, so won’t be around forever. His wife died a while ago, so he’s now running the farm on his own. He has two children who have long since grown up and left home: a son (voice: Rory Kinnear) and a daughter (voice: Emily Beecham), and the big question is, when he dies, will they take over – or will they get rid of the farm?

In recent years, the UK has produced a number of rural movies that stand in stark contrast to the urban- (Often London-) based films produced. Quite a few of these have been about farms or farmers (e.g.… Read the rest

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Fez Summer ’55
(” 55″ خمسة وخمسين)

Director – Abdelhai Laraki – 2023 – Morocco – Cert. none – 114m

****

An 11-year-old boy navigates the rooftops of a Moroccan city while insurgents plot the overthrow of French colonialists in private courtyards and sometimes confront the occupying police in the streets – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The old medina of Moroccan city Fez, a lattice of narrow streets where there is room for no more than pedestrian traffic. Or, to 11-year-old boy Kamal (Ayman Driwi), a network of rooftops and walkways allowing him to go anywhere. His freedom on the top of the city stands in sharp contrast to the country’s political reality: occupied by France, with their police patrolling the streets. The locals either keep their heads down or agitate for the return of their exiled ruler, Sultan Mohammed V.

The story is very much told from Kamal’s point of view. He is at once possessed of a child’s enthusiasm for life and from his rooftop vantage point able to see things unseen by most of the narrative’s adults most of the time. Yet, he is hampered by his immaturity and lack of understanding of what’s really going on.… Read the rest

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Open The Door
(Opeun Deo Do-eo,
오픈 더 도어)

Director – Chang Hang-jun – 2022 – US, South Korea – Cert. 15 – 72m

*****

Serial bad decisions in five reverse chronology episodes of a New Jersey, Korean migrant family’s life suggest terrible consequences – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival 2023 which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 2nd to Thursday, November 16th

Chi-hoon (Seo Young-joo from The Age Of Shadows, Kim Ji-Woon, 2016; Moebius, Kim Ki-duk, 2013) drives over to the house of his sister and brother-in-law Moon-suk (Lee Soon-won). Moon-suk is alone, and invites him in, digging out a bottle of whiskey and the best food that can be eaten with it, kimchi. In the ensuing conversation, as the pair get more and more inebriated, various unpleasant family truths emerge. Their mother has severe health issues, the couple are in financial trouble, and Moon-suk casts doubt on his wife’s character, suggesting that she’s not the good person her brother believes her to be and accusing her of wanting to murder their mum.

However, Chi-hoon has a different agenda: he wants to know why Moon-suk has been regularly hitting his sister. At one point, Moon-suk goes into the bedroom, retrieves a revolver and hides it on his person.… Read the rest

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A Normal Family
(Bo-tong-ui Ga-jog,
보통의 가족)

Director – Hur Jin-ho – 2023 – South Korea – Cert. – 116m

***

Lacking any moral sense of right and wrong, the teenage children of two brothers, a lawyer and a doctor, kick a homeless man to death – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival 2023 which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 2nd to Thursday, November 16th

After a road rage incident in which an out of order, rich twentysomething wilfully runs down an irate baseball player who objects to his driving, and puts the baseball player’s young daughter in a coma, the twentysomething hires defence lawyer Jae-wan (Sol Kyung-gu from The Boys; Chung Ji-young, 2022; 1987: When That Day Comes, Jang Joon-Hwan, 2017; Memoir Of A Murderer, Won Shin-yeon, 2017; Peppermint Candy, Lee Chang-dong, 2000) who is motivated not by justice but by doing everything he can to get his client off scot-free. Jae-wan has a new, young wife Ji-su (Claudia Kim from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, David Yates, 2018; The Dark Tower, Nikolaj Arsel, 2017; Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Joss Whedon, 2015) with a small baby and a teenage daughter Hye-yoon (Hong Yi-ji) by his late first wife.… Read the rest

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Moebius
(Moebiuseu,
뫼비우스)

Director – Kim Ki-duk – 2013 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 99m

*****

An extreme film even by Korean enfant terrible Kim Ki-duk’s own standards, Moebius is an oedipal cocktail of sex and violence shot without dialogue. Traversing (among other things) castration and gang rape, it’s a character study involving a family: an adulterous father, a jealous mother and (from early in the first reel) a castrated son with the father and son becoming involved with the former’s otherwise unattached lover. An essay employing psychological archetype to great effect, it holds the viewer in its vice-like grip from start to finish. A key work from a master, highly recommended, although definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Capsule review for Film Review Annual.

Trailer:

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Killers
Of The Flower Moon

Director – Martin Scorsese – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 206m

*****

A returning WW1 veteran marries into Oklahoma’s Osage Indian tribe at the time of the Osage Indian Murders – plays the 2023 London Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, October 4th until Sunday, October 15th, and will be out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 20th

At slightly over 80 years of age, Martin Scorsese has now been making movies for over 60 years. Like his last, fictional, narrative feature The Irishman (2019), this one is pushing three and a half hours. I always have issues with films that long: the vast majority are that way due to director’s ego and / or inability to tell a story concisely. Some of them might have been better suited to a TV mini-series ( a medium in which, incidentally, Scorsese also works). Yet if you try and imagine Killers Of The Flower Moon cut down in length, it’s difficult. Maybe you could take out the frame story – the performance of a crime drama on the radio on the subject of the Osage Indian Murders – but that sets the scene nicely at the start and takes you back out of the movie equally nicely at the end, so it would be a shame to do so.… Read the rest

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3

Director – Nia Vardalos – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 91m

***

The Greek-American family from Chicago visit their late patriarch’s small village in Greece to honour his final wish out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 8th

Once again written by and starring Vardalos as Toula, the daughter of the rumbunctious, Greek-American Portokalos family from Chicago, this third outing for the franchise is predictably another celebration of all things Greek, or, at least, Greek-American. The previous two films owed much to the character of Toula’s father Gus (Michael Constantine), the family patriarch insistent on all family members (a) getting married as soon as they come of age and (b) marrying Greek-Americans.

In the first film My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Joel Zwick, 2002), Toula had to bring him round to the idea of her marrying the non-Greek Ian (John Corbett). In the second film My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Kirk Jones, 2016), Toula had become an interfering mother to teenage daughter Paris (Elena Campouris) while Gus and his wife Maria (Lainie Kazan) have another wedding celebration following the discovery that their marriage of 50 years was technically invalid.

The third instalment was to have been about Gus and the family visiting Greece to rediscover his roots.… Read the rest