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Features Live Action Movies

The Fabelmans

Director – Steven Spielberg – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 151m

*****

The life and times of a young boy and amateur US movie maker whose extended family harbours an unexpected secret – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 27th

Throughout his career, Spielberg has continued to surprise. He’s made big blockbusters which seem, very often, to be about the intimacies of family relationships. Perhaps it was inevitable that, sooner or later, he would make something like The Fabelmans.

Orson Welles once said that Hollywood was the best train set a boy could have to play with. Presented with a train set, young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord) plays with it by staging train crashes, about which behaviour his brilliant, scientific nerd father Burt (Paul Dano) is less than pleased.

However, his mother Mitzy (Michelle Williams), after some thought, realises that her son need to see the trains crash over and over again, so secretly allows him to stage a crash and film it with the family’s Super 8 home movie camera to enable his required repeat viewing. This kindles within the boy a desire to make his own movies, and soon he’s enlisting his family, friends and neighbours in these enterprises.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Piggy (Cerdita)

Director – Carlota Pereda – 2022 – Spain – Cert. 18 – 99m

*****

Director – Carlota Pereda – 2018 – Spain – 13m

*****

Fat-shaming, bullying, overbearing mothers, growing up as the local butcher’s daughter, and more – feature based on short is out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 6th

Sara (Laura Galán) is attempting to navigate the difficult waters of adolescence. It isn’t much fun if you’re different and cliques of your contemporaries gang up on you. In Sara’s case, she isn’t just fat, she’s also introverted and shuns people, which compounds the amount she gets teased. She often works in her father’s butchers shop, so bullies can easily put together insults based on fat and flesh and pork and meat. A clique of three, thinner girls – Roci (Camille Aguilar) and Maca (Claudia Salas) and their unwilling hanger-on Claudia aka Clau (Irene Ferreiro) – call her Piggy.

It’s Summer, and everyone is going down to the Madrigal (Waterfall) festivities at the pool on the river, where a mysterious out-of-towner is lounging about, but Sara sneaks down there later for a swim when she hopes nobody is around. She’s just getting into the water when the stranger (Richard Holmes) surfaces innocently, startling her.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Avatar: The Way Of Water

Director – James Cameron – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 192m

Immersive Cinema *****

Screenplay *

Now raising their own family on the planet Pandora, a couple flee the attacking Sky People to live among a tribe of sea people – first Avatar sequel is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 16th

Having gone native on the planet Pandora following the events in Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), in which paraplegic human soldier Jake Sully (performance capture including voice or Pcap: Sam Worthington) was transformed into an avatar of a non-disabled, native Pandoran, in the first third of the film, Jake is raising a family with Na’vi partner Neytiri (Pcap: Zoe Saldaña): two boys, two girls. They play in the jungle forest with their friend Spider (Jack Champion), a human child who was too young to be evacuated when the other Sky People left. Spider has been raised by human scientists who remained behind, and he must constantly wear a breathing mask to survive in Pandora’s atmosphere; he is to all intents and purposes feral.

When the Sky People return to Pandora with a new remit – to prep the planet for human habitation since the Earth is becoming uninhabitable – Jake’s old commander Quaritch (Pcap: Stephen Lang), who died in the first film but is now reconstituted as an an avatar embedded with the character’s DNA and memories, is determined to hunt down and kill the Sully who, as he sees it, betrayed him.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Rimini (Rimini)

Director – Ulrich Siedl – 2022 – Austria, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 114m

*****

A singer of romantic songs performs to elderly female fans (in more ways than one) in an off-season seaside town as his past catches up with him – in cinemas from Friday, December 9th following its screening in the BFI London Film Festival 2022

An old man (Hans-Michael Rehberg, who died in 2016 and whose last lensed appearance on film this performance, split between this film and Siedl’s Sparta, 2022, represents) is lost in a care home where he’s a patient. None of the doors will open. His son (Michael Thomas) arrives and takes him to the man’s wife’s funeral.

His son travels to the off-season, Italian seaside resort of Rimini for bookings as Richie Bravo (presumably his stage rather than his real name, although this is never clarified) at hotels to sing romantic songs to his admiring, elderly, female fan base. The dull, monolithic hotel buildings have exotic names like Soleil and 007 belying their inherent blandness.

In between those performances and traipsing around through heavy rain and snow, he engages in sexual congress in hotel rooms with a small number of his most devoted fans including the single Anna (Claudia Martini) and the married Emmi (Inge Maux).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Nocebo

Director – Lorcan Finnegan – 2022 – UK, Ireland – Cert. 15 – 96m

***

A mother and fashion designer’s stress levels increase when she hires a too good to be true Filipino au pair – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 9th

A nocebo is a negative placebo – a belief that some factor will cause a medical or psychological condition to get worse, which it then does.

Christine (Eva Green), a high-flying fashion designer, and her husband Felix (Mark Strong), who works in advertising, lead pressured lives, and they have a daughter Roberta, known to her friends as Bobs (Billie Gadsdon), at primary school. Deciding which of them is going to drop Bobs off at / pick her up from school is always a challenge.

Christine is in the middle of a shoot involving child models when she receives a phone call with bad news about “they’re pulling out the bodies” and has a nervous breakdown, suddenly experiencing bizarre and horrifying hallucinations, with everyone she sees on the set spouting boils, a fate also visited on a mysterious, blind dog covered in sores. A tiny beetle burrows into her neck, later resulting in an itchy sore.

She takes time off work and sleeps with special breathing apparatus at night.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Return To Dust (Yin Ru Chen Yan, 隐入尘烟)

Director – Li Ruijin – 2022 – China – Cert. PG – 133m

***1/2

When two misfits are put into an arranged marriage by their respective, concerned families, a kindly, gentle relationship blossomsout in UK cinemas Friday, November 4th following its screening in the 2022 Edinburgh Film Festival

His family are worried about Iron Ma (Wu Renlin), also known as fourth brother. He seems content to live off his little piece of land tilling it with his donkey to grow crops, and raising pigs and chickens. He is less ambitious than third brother, who runs the local market and sets the prices for which crops are bought off local farmers. Third brother has done well for himself, and drives around in a flashy car. By way of contrast, Ma gets around by walking, or donkey and cart if he has produce to transport.

Her family are likewise worried about Cao Guiying (Hai Qing), a shy woman who can’t control her bladder. Both Ma and Cao’s respective families view their offspring as a liability and want to get them married off as soon as possible, not least to get out of being responsible for them. So they arrange a marriage for the pair of them to get them off their hands.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

After Yang

Director – Kogonada – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 96m

****1/2

In the distant future, a couple must come to terms with the loss of the eldest child, actually an A.I. purchased as an ethnically programmed companion for their adopted South East Asian daughter – SF mystery drama is on Sky Cinema from Thursday, September 22nd

Memory is one of the great themes of cinema because when you point a moving image camera at someone, you capture and preserve their moving image for posterity. (Something similar happens when you record the sound of someone’s voice. Or even if you write down their words on paper, a simpler, more primitive form of recording.) Memory is also one of the elements which defines us as human beings.

Full marks, then, to director (actually writer, director, editor) Kogonada for taking the short story Saying Goodbye To Yang by Alexander Weinstein and expanding it into a feature. As described in the parlance of the distant future world in which this is set, Yang is a technosapien (i.e. a robot), a purchased elder sibling of a family comprising father Jake (Colin Farrell), mother Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja).

Mika is adopted, and her ever so Hollywood liberal parents – he a white man who has built a business around his passion for tea, she a black woman who is a hard-working, highly motivated high-flier in a demanding corporate business that’s never really defined – are concerned that she connect with her South East Asian heritage.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years In Afghanistan

Director – Phil Grabsky, Shoaib Sharifi – 2022 – UK – Cert. tbc – 90m

**1/2

The story of a boy from his harsh childhood in a mountain cave through to his life as a husband and father of three in present day Kabul under the Taliban – out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, September 20th

Mir Hussain has already been the subject of two previous Grabsky documentaries The Boy Who Played On The Buddhas Of Bamiyan (2004) and The Boy Mir (2011). The first covers his time as an eight-year-old living in the caves of Bamiyan, beside the remains of the famous monuments which had been destroyed by the Taliban. The second documents his life from eight- to eighteen-year-old. This third film takes a longer view, following Mir’s life from that early period through to the present day.

Afghanistan has undergone huge changes in the last twenty years, from Taliban rule through occupation post 9/11 by NATO forces led by the US to the withdrawal of Western forces, the collapse of the Afghan government and the return to power of the Taliban. That story is related here via clips of various news reports from TV channels all around the globe.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Tad The Lost Explorer And The Curse Of The Mummy (Tad The Lost Explorer And The Emerald Tablet; Tadeo Jones 3. La Tabla Esmeralda; Tadeo Jones 3. La Taula Maragda)

Director – Enrique Gato – 2022 – Spain – Cert. U – 90m

****

In Mexico, desperate for recognition as a bona fide archaeologist, our hero unearths an Egyptian sarcophagus and unleashes a mysterious power from an Inca temple – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Gato’s third instalment of the Tad The Lost Explorer franchise is a lot better than it sounds, chiefly because it delivers narrative coherence and picks up and runs with numerous opportunities afforded by character and script where the similarly inventive Minions: The Rise Of Gru (Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val, 2022) failed.

Having agreed with girlfriend Sara not to go public about his previous archaeological discoveries, Tad has with her help got on to the Chicago Museum’s dig in Mexico – as a lowly assistant, even though he seems more clued-up than the three qualified archaeologists in charge. Rashly opening a secret door by pushing a part of a wall frieze, he finds himself in a vast chamber containing an Egyptian sarcophagus, his report of which is pooh-poohed by his three superiors until, after firing him, they discover it for themselves and take the credit.

This rivalry between the ‘amateur’ Tad and qualified but comparatively clueless ‘professionals’ is kept up throughout the narrative, although the professionals remain secondary characters.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time

Directors – Robert B. Weide, Dan Argott – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 127m

*****

A warm and compelling look at the life of writer Kurt Vonnegut, the influence upon him of the bombing of Dresden, and his decades-long friendship with director Weide – out in cinemas and on digital platforms from Friday, July 22nd, BFI Player Rental from Monday, August 22nd

Read my shorter review for Reform magazine.

The documentary Weide eventually made about Vonnegut took him the best part of four decades to complete. Weide opens with a statement about Vonnegut walking in the woods, feeling a tree and seeing the bombing of Dresden before it occurred. There seems no reason to doubt Vonnegut. He was unstuck in time, jumping around the years and decades. Weide first contacted him in 1982, never imagining that it would take him anything like as long to complete the film as it did. He starts looking at interviews of himself (“who wants to see a documentary in which a filmmaker appears as himself?”, he asks) – defined by where they were shot or what shirt Weide was wearing at the time.

Whatever else Vonnegut and his writing are, they are not conventional.… Read the rest