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Features Live Action Movies

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1954 – Japan – Cert. PG – 207m – Oscar nominated

Seven samurai must defend a poor village of farmers from bandits in one of the greatest action movies ever made – both released in cinemas in a brand-new restoration from Friday, October 29th and currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan 2021 programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Seven Samurai opens with a group of horsemen on a horizon. Notwithstanding the Japanese titles on the screen, you could be watching a Hollywood Western. Although what follows is a tale of samurai, bandits and farmers, it’s so close to ideas in a Western that Hollywood replaced sword with guns and retooled it as the hugely successful The Magnificent Seven (1960).

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The plot concerns a small farming village threatened by bandits, who attack at harvest time and take all the crops. The farmers find a group of samurai prepared to defend them against the bandits in return for food and lodging. From a script co-written with two others Kurosawa delivers a measured epic which explodes into action in its final hour and a bit… [Read more]

I review Seven Samurai for All The Anime.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Hidden Fortress (Kakushi-toride no san-akunin)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1958 – Japan – Cert. PG – 138m

***

Currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Captured by soldiers, two wandering bumpkin farmers (Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara) are put waist deep in a waterlogged pit with scores of other prisoners and ordered to dig for treasure. Before they can find it, however, they manage to escape. In the middle of nowhere, one of them slings away a useless, sodden branch from their attempted campfire. It goes chink. Inside the wood is concealed gold with a royal seal upon it.

So begins Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 foray into chambara (Japanese popular historical epic genre) which also features a beautiful princess in exile (Misa Uehara) and her heroic general (Toshiro Mifune) intent on restoring her with the clan’s gold. If the story sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s George Lucas’ main source for his Star Wars (1977) (and one or two elements in its sequels), which today lend Kurosawa’s film an added interest. The Hidden Fortress puts hero, heroine and their two unlikely companions through a series of set piece adventures including lance duels, a spectacularly choreographed folk fire festival, horseback pursuits and, indeed, the discovery fairly early on in the proceedings of the eponymous hidden fortress.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

My Favorite War

Director – Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen – 2020 – Latvia, Norway – Cert. N/C 12+ – 77m

****

Autobiographical documentary employs cut-out animation to describe a childhood in Latvia when it was part of the Soviet UnionGlasgow Film Festival Thursday, February 25th to Sunday, February 28th

In World War Two. Latvia was caught between the Nazis and the Russians. After the Nazis capitulated, the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Ilze’s grandfather, a small farmer, was declared an Enemy of the State and sent to Siberia because he owned a small piece of land. Her Communist Party member father became a City Manager but he was killed in a car crash leaving her mother to bring up her and her brother alone.

At age three, Ilze’s parents risk everything by taking her to a forbidden beach a few miles from their home just so their young daughter can see the sea. This is the self-proclaimed “happiest country in the world” where party officials can queue jump and take the last pack of butter, where peace is paramount but shooting lessons are mandatory at school. As Ilze grows, she must keep quiet about all sorts of things or her mother will lose her job.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The Old Man – The Movie (Vanamehe film)

Directors – Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi – 2019 – Estonia – 88m

***

From Fantasia Film Festival 2020 virtual edition and Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival.

Estonia’s answer to Britain’s Shaun The Sheep, this feature spin off from long running, popular, puppet animation TV comedy series Vanamehe Multikas (Old Man Cartoon) shows Estonian sensibilities to be very different from those of the British. This is aimed at not as you might expect children but rather the young adult market – it’s stuffed full of sexual innuendo and toilet or other bodily function humour. Since I can imagine it being an uproarious experience with the right audience, it’s a shame to have seen this online rather than in a packed movie theatre owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bookended by black and white newsreel of Old Milker’s disastrous failure to stop a cow’s unmilked udders exploding into a lactopolypse complete with milk mushroom cloud, the plot has three kids sent to stay with their grandpa on his farm for the summer. Their family car back seat introduction shows us teenage boy Priidik and girl Aino constantly on their mobile phones while their pre-teen boy sibling Mart has built an incredible, fully functioning, miniature robot cow for grandpa.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Mosley

Director – Kirby Atkins – 2019 – China, New Zealand – 97m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Mosley (voiced by writer-director Kirby Atkins) is a thoriphant who lives on the small holdings farm of his owner Simon (Curt Cloniger) where he and Bera (Lucy Lawless) have a small boy Rue (voiced by director’s daughter Leah Atkins when little and Scarlett Sills in additional dialogue). The backbreaking work Mosley does for Simon is that of a plough horse. Simon is not a particularly bad man, but sees nothing wrong with pushing Mosley as far as he can with the result that Mosley is often completely exhausted by the end of the day.

He then has to contend with the hyperactive Rue leaping on him and demanding he come out and play. One evening, Rue wants dad to come and see his new hiding place and Bera insists it’s important. Rue talks about what he would do if he had hands, which takes Mosley back somewhat since thoriphants have hooved feet like horses or cows. A trip to Rue’s hideout reveals vast, underground cave paintings of thoriphants walking upright. And they have hands. There’s a long tunnel there too.

Mosley patiently explains that the uprights “are not real.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Fanny Lye Deliver’d

The new normal?

Fanny Lye Deliver’d
Directed by Thomas Clay
Certificate 18, 110 minutes
Released digitally on 26 June

Shropshire, 1657. The aftermath of the English Civil War and a time when ideas about politics, relationships, religion and society are up for grabs. Fanny (Maxine Peake) is the young wife of Captain John Lye (Charles Dance) who fought under Cromwell and has been given a farmhouse by way of thanks. The puritan couple have a son, Arthur, who is too young to have lived through the war. The God-fearing and articulate John takes the family to chapel weekly (we never see them there, just going and returning) and keeps his son and, particularly, his wife in order using a mixture of Scripture reading, prayer and corporal punishment.

I review Fanny Lye Deliver’d for Reform.

Here’s the trailer: