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Features Live Action Movies

Playground (Un Monde)

Director – Laura Wandel – 2021 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 72m

****1/2

A quiet, seven-year-old girl starts school and has to deal with the trauma of her older brother being bullied by bigger boys – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd

They hug in the playground before going in. It’s the first day of school for seven-year-old Nora (Maya Vanderbeque) and she doesn’t want to be separated from her elder brother Abel (Günter Duret). When she’s pulled off him, she just wants to hug her dad (Karim Leklou) and doesn’t want him to leave. Eventualy, the kindly lady schoolteacher takes her firmly by the hand and walks her into the building. In class, she’s hesitant about speaking her name. At lunch, she’s not allowed to sit with her brother but must stay with the kids the same age as her.

In the playground, she approaches Abel, but he tells her to keep away as “we’re beating up the new kids with Antoine”. She blunders in anyway and sees him trying to defend her from the bullies. Later, witnessing an incident on the stairs, she reports that older boys are bullying her brother causing a teacher to intervene. He won’t tell the teacher what’s going on, believing that will only make things worse.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent

Director – Tom Gormican – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 105m

****

Down on his luck, actor Nick Cage (playing himself) accepts the job of spending time at a fan’s house for one million dollars, unaware that his host is a crime lord pursued by the CIA – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd

This unusual entry in the ‘actor playing themselves’ genre is effectively the movie equivalent of fan fiction. That might sound disparaging, but that’s not at all what I mean.

Obsessed with the actor Nic Cage and his movies, writer-director Gormican has written this: a movie in which a character called Nick Cage (Nic Cage playing a version of himself) is an actor down on his luck, desperate to get a part for which he’s just auditioned and which he believes will revitalise his flagging career. He needs this part. He’s heavily in debt. His ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) wants him to spend more time with their teenage daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen), specifically, listening to her, since he spends most of his time spouting off about his own career in particular or movies in general.

When the part he’s after falls through, he decides to take the other offer from his agent Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), the one where he gets a million dollars for hanging out with a rich fan.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Dear Pyongyang

Director – Yang Yong-hi – 2005 – Japan – 107m

****

The return of a Japanese-Korean woman’s brothers to North Korea, encouraged by her parents, causes her considerable grief over the years – online in the UK as part of Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDFF) from Monday, January 17th to Sunday, February 6th, 2022.

The Zainichi are ethnic Koreans living in Japan. When that latter country was divided into North and South Korea, the Japanese required Koreans to designate themselves accordingly. Thus, they were forced to choose one side or the other and it reinforced their identity either way. From 1959 onwards, some 90 000 North Koreans returned from Japan to Korea in full expectation that it would be only a matter of time before North and South were reunited as a single nation once again. That still hadn’t come to pass by the time this documentary was completed, and it still hasn’t today some 15 years on.

As a six-year-old, Yang Yong-hi watched her three older brothers get on a one-way boat trip to North Korea, the country her dad designated their Fatherland. However, it wasn’t the world in which they – or she – had grown up. She was born in the Japanese town of Tsuruhashi where a quarter of the population was Korean.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness (Hebeun: Haengbokeui Nararo, 행복의 나라로)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2021 – South Korea – 101m

*****

A meds thief on the verge of arrest and an escaped convict inadvertently steal money from gangsters closing gala with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which ran in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

The sexual frankness of director Im’s earlier A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003) and The Housemaid (2010) is absent from his latest, a producer-suggested project more lightweight than his usual fare which nevertheless achieves a degree of poignancy. Its template is the German film Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Thomas Jahn, 1997) in which two terminally ill men steal a car so that one of them can visit the sea before he dies, the car unfortunately belonging to a gangster and carrying a quantity of cash in the boot.

Writing his own script around this loose premise, Im makes the man who wants to see the sea a convict, inmate 203 (Choi Min-sik from The Tiger, Park Hoon-jung, 2015; Lucy, Luc Besson, 2014; New World, Park Hoon-jung, 2013; Lady Vengeance, Park Chan Wook, 2005), sent to the hospital for an MRI scan where it’s discovered he has a brain tumour and two weeks to live.… Read the rest

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Live Action Series Television

Hellbound (Jiok)

Director – Yeon Sang-ho – 2021 – South Korea – 6 x 50m

*****

Angels state the time of death then demons come and cart people off to hell, generating a circus of fundamentalist, religious activity – series airs on Netflix from November 19th – reviewed for All The Anime

The new Netflix series Hellbound (2021) from South Korea’s Yeon Sang-ho, creator of zombie outings Seoul Station (2016) and Train To Busan (2016), began life as a webtoon some 11 minutes in length back in 2002. The first three x 50-minute episodes (out of six) have played a number of international film festivals.

Those first three episodes – screened at the London Film Festival where this writer saw them – explore notions of sin, eternal punishment and damnation. As in Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael’s hilarious and highly inventive comic, religious satire The Brand New Testament (2015), people are sent the date and time of their death then dazedly watch the moment approach on their mobile phones. After its announcement, when the time comes, three black and white, Hulk-like demons turn up to pound the person into a pulp, suck out their life force and burn the corpse… [Read more]

I review Hellbound (eps 1-3) for All The Anime.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Fever (A Febre)

Director – Maya Da-Rin – 2019 – Brazil – Cert. 12a – 98m

***1/2

An indigenous container port security man falls prey to a fever as a mysterious animal prowls the nearby Amazon rainforest – out in cinemas and on select online rental platforms including BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, July 30th

Justino (Regis Myrupu) works as the night watchman at a port in Manaus, a city on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, where huge containers are unloaded and loaded and stacked in perpendicular piles by huge mechanical rigs. At the lockers, he chats with a new colleague who used to supervise workers on a farm but got fed up with it.

After his shift, he takes the 324 bus then walks up the huge hill to his small shack where he lives with his grown up daughter Vanessa (Rosa Peixoto), his wife having died some years previously. Sometimes his son visits with or without daughter-in-law and child in tow. Sometimes his brother and wife visit.

There are news reports of a mysterious wild animal in the area attacking livestock. Sometimes, getting off the 324, Justino thinks her hears something in the undergrowth. But he finds nothing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Empty Hands (Hung Sau Dou, 空手道)


Director – Chapman To – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 97m

Film *****

Subtitle legibility *

A Hong Kong Chinese-Japanese must come to peace with her late, estranged karate-obsessed father – online in the UK as part of Hong Kong Focus 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

To get the subtitle issue out of the way first, the subs here are what subs often used to be forty years ago – white with no black edge around the lettering. So as soon as the lettering appears over a white area of the image, it’s rendered invisible and illegible. These days, that system is rarely used so it’s rarely a problem. But there are several scenes here when it’s an issue. Nothing that will fundamentally spoil the film, but it’s a pity that someone cut a corner and didn’t get this quite right. If it ever turns up on home video, I hope someone redoes the subs properly to make them legible. The translation seems fine, which makes the poor legibility far more irritating. Now then, the film…

This follows the time-worn, martial arts movie template of a hero with something to prove so they train for a big competition fight in which they somehow find themselves.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies Music

Bill & Ted Face The Music

Director – Dean Parisot – Writers – Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson – 2020 – US – Cert. PG – 91m

****

Party on, dudes! The two friends return having failed over 25 years to write the song to unite all of humanity and prevent the universe unravelling – in cinemas from Wednesday, September 16th

William ‘Bill’ S. Preston esq. and Theodore ‘Ted’ Logan (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) have somehow failed to fulfil their destiny and become losers. 25 years on from their two earlier outings Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (Peter Hewitt, 1991). Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyns has been reduced from selling out stadium gigs to playing open mike nights. 

Then they are taken in a time travel pod to 2700 A.D. to discover that because they never did write that song to unify all humanity, the fabric of space and time threatens to unravel by 5.17pm that very day in 2700. 

Their wives Elizabeth and Joanna (the fifteenth century English princesses from the first film here played by Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays) have had enough and are going to couples’ counselling… so Bill and Ted travel back to join them, inadvertently making the situation worse.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Quiet Passion

Nonconformist poet

A Quiet Passion
Directed by Terence Davies
Certificate 12a, 126 minutes
Released 7 April 2017

A stern matriarch divides a school room of young women into those who are saved on one side and those who hope to be saved on the other. This leaves Emily Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) in the middle because she hasn’t got as far as that yet. Rescued from the seminary by her father Edward (Keith Carradine), Emily confesses that she was suffering from ‘evangelism’.

Thus begins the latest film from the British, Catholic director Terence Davies – a biopic of the 19th-century, US poet Emily Dickinson, from her leaving school, through her life as a single woman in an era when women were supposed to marry and have children, to her death. Directed with Davies’ usual visual, cinematic rigour and punctuated by large chunks of Dickinson’s poetry in voice-over, the film also drips Christianity. It never attempts to convert anyone, but neither does it shy away from portraying a household in the southern states where faith and theology are everyday discussion topics. [Read more…]

Full review in Reform magazine, April 2017.

Trailer: