Categories
Features Live Action Movies

All of Us Strangers

Director – Andrew Haigh – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 105m

*****

A gay Londoner travels by train to visit his parents in Sanderstead, following their deaths in a car crash when he was 12 years old – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 26th

He (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a London tower block. Not only is he the single occupant of his flat, there’s almost no-one else in the building. When he goes outside for a breath of fresh air, he sees a guy in the window of one of the other apartments. Later, there’s a knock at his door. It’s the guy (Paul Mescal), who is slightly drunk, comes on strong and tries to get himself invited in. The visitor’s name is Harry. The occupant introduces himself as Adam, but doesn’t let Harry in.

By day, Adam writes screenplays. But he’s got stuck, so after perusing some personal effects, he takes the train to Sanderstead. There, he watches a boy in a window. He follows a man across an area of parkland. Coming out of a shop, the man spots him and asks him to come over. You think it might be a pickup – but no, it’s his dad (Jamie Bell).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Boy And The Heron
(Kimitachi Wa
Do Ikiru Ka,
君たちはど
う生きるか,
lit.
How Do You Live?)

Director – Hayao Miyazaki – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

During WorldWar Two, a boy bereaved of his mother moves to the countryside with his businessman father where a heron lures him into another dimension to rescue his vanished stepmother – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 26th

Directors, eh? They make their last film, then, some time later, they go and make another one. The Wind Rises (2013) was supposed to be Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, but three years later, he was working on his next one. And seven years further on, The Boy And The Heron hits cinemas. The Japanese title How Do You Live? comes from a popular children’s novel, a copy of which appears in the film, rather than the film being an adaptation of the novel.

Three years into World War Two, young boy Mahito (Japanese dub: Soma Santoki; English dub: Luca Padovan) loses his mother in a Tokyo hospital fire. Four years into the war, his father (Japanese dub: Takuya Kimura; English dub: Christian Bale) – a businessman who manufactures aircraft cockpits for the war effort – decides to move both his factory and his son out of Tokyo to the countryside where he plans to marry his late wife’s younger sister Natsuko (Japanese dub: Yoshino Kimura; English dub: Gemma Chan).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Snow Leopard
(Xue Bao,
雪豹)

Director – Pema Tseden – 2023 – Tibet – LEAFF Cert. 12 – 109m

*****

A monk invites a filmmaker friend to a remote farm in the Tibetan mountain region where a snow leopard trapped in a sheep pen has killed nine sheep –the late Pema Tseden’s final completed film plays in the Official Selection at the 2023 London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which ran from Wednesday, October 18th to Sunday, October 29th

Film maker Dradul (Genden Phuntsok) has been informed by his friend Nyima the Snow Leopard Monk (Tseten Tashi) of an incident and so sets out for the region of the Tibetan Mountains with a small crew in his car. Following roads in the freezing wilderness, the car arrives at a remote farm which consists basically of a stone farmhouse and a sheep pen where the Snow Leopard Monk awaits them, along with the old farmer and his family.

The sheep pen has been breached by a snow leopard, a rare animal that’s a protected species in Tibet, and the old farmer’s adult son Jinpa (Jinpa) is furious that it has killed nine sheep. Confronted with the camera, he argues vociferously that man must live with the snow leopard, and that a small number of kills would be acceptable, but an amount as large as nine is most definitely not okay.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

One Fine Spring Day
(Bomnaleun Ganda,
봄날은 간다)

Director – Hur JIn-ho – 2001 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

The romance between a sound engineer and a radio DJ from winter through spring to its falling apart in summer – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival 2023 which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 2nd to Thursday, November 16th

Winter. Twentysomething sound recordist Sang-woo (Yoo Ji-tae) lives at home with his family including his grandmother, to whom he’s completely devoted. He is hired by a radio station in a nearby town and finds himself working alongside DJ and talk radio host Eun-su (Lee Young-ae), travelling there in his van. They spend time in the local countryside recording sounds such as the wind across the tall grass and she invites him to her flat for the night. One thing almost leads to another, but woken by his trying to kiss her as she lies on a mattress on the floor after she let him use her bed, she tells him, let’s wait until we know each other better.

They quickly become inseparable, with much walking together, holding and hugging, although she won’t shout about it from the rooftops because, as she explains to him, if the radio station found out they were in a relationship, he’d get the sack.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Creation
Of The Gods
I:
Kingdom
Of Storms
(Feng Shen
Di Yi Bu:
Zhao Ge Feng Yun,
封神第一部
朝歌风云,
lit.
Investiture
Of The Gods
Part I:
Zhaoge Turmoil)

Director – Wuershan – 2023 – China – Cert. 15 – 148m

****

A king’s infatuation with a beautiful woman possessed by a vixen demon threatens to bring down a terrible curse upon his kingdom – first part of epic, period, mythological adventure trilogy is out in UK and Irish cinemas on Friday, September 22nd

This first trilogy instalment of an adaptation of the Xu Zhonglin-attributed novel Investiture Of The Gods, written towards the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), deals with the downfall of the Shang dynasty (which existed well before a thousand years BC). While the tale may well contain elements of historical truth, it also mixes in supernatural deities and creatures to cover an awful lot of ground in its two and a half hours’ running length.

The novel is known by a number of titles in Chinese, one of which is Fengshen Bang, an artefact of which name turns up in this film as a sort of MacGuffin, here a mystical scroll endowing its owner with great power which at least one major character seeks to possess, others seek to help him do so and immortals want to make sure it gets into the right (i.e. righteous or deserving) hands rather than his.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Over My Dead Body
(Seisi Seisi Seisapsei,
死屍死時四十四)

Director – Ho Cheuk Tin – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 119m

**

Confronted with a naked corpse, the residents of three separate flats in a tower block try to get shot of it before its discovery can reduce their apartments’ selling prices – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 21st

One of two films about living in a high rise released this week.

Hong Kong movies have a long tradition of knockabout and very silly comedy which are something of an acquired taste. Many of them are enjoyable enough. This particular entry, however, doesn’t travel outside the Hong Kong Chinese culture very well. To an English, non-Cantonese speaker, it doesn’t really work, coming over largely as irritating. (I suspect that, for Cantonese speakers, it may well play far more successfully.)

Half watching a TV show on his dashboard phone about the problems Hong Kongers face around ever-escalating real estate prices, Ming To (Wong You Nam from Ip Man, Wilson Yip, 2008) makes the journey in his VW van through gridlocked traffic, past the building’s SG (security guard) Lee (Sheung-ching Lee) of the tower block Seaside Heights to Flat 14A and the bedroom of sexy air stewardess Yana Chung (Jennifer Yu Heung-Ying from Shadows, Glenn Chan, Bure Li, 2020; Tracey, Jun Li, 2018) for some horizontal refreshment under the sheets.… Read the rest

Categories
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 on digital on Tuesday, March 11th

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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Allelujah

Director – Richard Eyre – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 98m

***

While a small NHS hospital in Wakefield, Yorkshire is in danger of being closed down by the government as inefficient, it seeks to care for its geriatric patients– out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 17th

Based on the 2018 stage play by Alan Bennett, this multiple plot- and character-drama follows the day-to-day lives of assorted, mostly terminal, geriatric patients in The Beth, or the Bethlehem Hospital to give it its full name, in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Dr. Valentine (Bally Gill) whose real Indian name no-one can pronounce (really?) provides a framing device, a man who in an engaging, opening voice-over makes it clear that he genuinely cares for the elderly and who closes the film in a couple of scenes that don’t really work. Of which, more later.

Because what follows is for the most part character- rather than plot-driven, the character of Dr. Valentine doing his rounds and grappling with the inevitable day-to-day crises as they come up provides the main structural spine of the story.

I say ‘the main’ line, but in fact there is one other character who serves a similar function not to mention several subsidiary plots, one of which is considerably weightier than the others.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Middle Man

Director – Bent Hamer – 2021 – Norway, Denmark, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland – Cert. 15 – 95m

****

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… A man in a heartland American town becomes a middle man, whose job it is to convey bad news to local people – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 10th

Curiously for an English language film set in a small American town, this one was funded by a variety of European countries and Canada. While its visuals clearly owe much to the films of David Lynch, particularly Blue Velvet (1986) and Lost Highway (1997) with their heavy night time interiors filled with dark, impenetrable black spaces, it eschews the over the top moments of sex and violence with which Lynch peppers these films with something much less jocular and more deadpan. Like Lynch it feels distinctly odd, yet in a completely different way. Unlike those films, it’s adapted from (part of) a novel.

Opening images. Factories in a town belch smoke. A small, industrial town on a river. This is Karmack, USA.

Frank Farrelli (Pål Sverre Hagen) is the second interviewee by the three person panel (the local sheriff, pastor and doctor played respectively by Paul Gross, Nicholas Bro and Canadian regular Don McKellar) for the town’s job of middle man, the person who has to deliver bad news, e.g.… Read the rest