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Features Live Action Movies

The Railway Children Return

Director – Morgan Matthews – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 98m

***1/2

Almost four decades after the events in The Railway Children, three siblings are evacuated from the wartime bombing raids of Salford to the safer Yorkshire countryside– out in cinemas on Friday, July 15th

In 1944, with Britain at war and German bombing intensifying, children are being evacuated from the cities to the countryside, leaving their parents to live with substitute parents and / or families for the duration. Thus, in Salford, their mother puts Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Angela (Jessica Baglow) and Ted (Zac Cudby) on a train to the small country town of Oakworth in Yorkshire. Arriving with many other children, they wait to be assigned to a family.

However, because there are three of them – and possibly also because Angela has got rid of the smart dress that her mother made her wear for a more comfortable outfit – no family is forthcoming. So grandmother Bobbie (Jenny Agutter, reprising her role from The Railway Children, Lionel Jeffries, 1970) persuades her daughter Annie (Sheridan Smith), the local headmistress, to take the trio even though the latter isn’t sure they can manage three, and the three children move in to their new home, The Three Chimneys.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Minions: The Rise Of Gru

Directors – Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val – 2022 – US – Cert. U – 87m

***1/2

Three plots involving the Minions, their pre-teen, supervillain master Gru and a gang of supervillains called Vicious 6 compete with each other – out in cinemas on Friday, July 1st

This starts off bravely for a franchise entry with the introduction of a raft of six new supervillains who comprise the gang Vicious 6, their names thrown at the audience in rapid-fire vignettes too fast too absorb, suggesting the makers have half an eye on freeze-frameable, home viewing platforms and half an eye on merchandising. The fabulous, motorbiking Belle Bottom (voice: Taraji P. Henson) who appears to have wandered in from 1970s blaxploitation with enormous Afro hair and disco diva clothing is the main focus of an enthralling car chase in which she outwits the cops with incredible stunts.

Her co-villains are voiced mostly by a roster of action stars known for that rather than animation voice work: the crab-pincered Jean Clawed (voice: Jean-Claude Van Damme), the Scandinavian-sounding Svengeance (voice: Dolph Lundgren), Stronghold (voice: Danny Trejo) and nunchaku-wielding nun Nunchuk (Lucy Lawless).

(A quick aside: older readers will recall that back in the 1970s, nunchaku were a no-no for the BBFC who would prune their use or even excise them altogether, sometimes in the most innocuous of contexts.… Read the rest

Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m

*****

A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with a novice – exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 1st

Christianity. The Church. Religion. Treat them the wrong way, and you can get into trouble. Horror The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), drama The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) and comedy Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1971) remain controversial. Lesbian nun relationship drama Benedetta may be about to join their ranks. Or perhaps times have moved on. The film is apparently based on a real 17th Century case.

As a young girl, Benedetta (Elena Plonka) claims to commune with the Divine – convincingly so, too, enough to suggest to a bandit gang about to rob her parents and her that a chirping bird is God’s voice, especially when said bird deposits excrement in the eye of the bandit leader who promptly returns a gold necklace to Benedetta’s mother.

On arrival at the convent in Pescia, Benedetta’s father (David Clavel) must pay the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling who seems to have cornered the market in Reverend Mothers judging by Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) a dowry to enable his daughter to become a novice, which suggests that the institution, like the wealthy Catholic Church under whose umbrella it exists, may have ignored Jesus’ injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Crazy Thunder Road (Kuruizaki Sanda Rodo, 狂い咲きサンダーロード)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1980 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

Following on from Arrow’s superb BD of Sogo Ishii’s Burst City (1982) comes Third Window’s equally impressive BD release of its predecessor in the Ishii canon Crazy Thunder Road (1980) – on Blu-ray from Monday, February 21st

This was Ishii’s Nihon University student graduation project, his first to be shot on 16mm rather than Super 8, which somehow got picked up for distribution by major Japanese Studio Toei which led to their giving him a budget for Burst City. Tom Mes, who as with Burst City supplies a commentary for the film, describes Crazy Thunder Road as “one of the Holy Grails of Japanese film releases if not the Holy Grail.”

When Toei presented Ishii with what seemed like astronomical funding for Burst City, it led him to overreach himself. In retrospect, he considers Burst City unfinished… [Read the full review at All The Anime]

Crazy Thunder Road was out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, February 21st.

Opening scene:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

A Chinese Odyssey (Sai Yau Gei, 西遊記)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part One – Pandora’s Box (Sai Yau Gei: Yut Gwong Bou Haap, 西遊記第壹佰零壹回之月光寶盒)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part Two – Cinderella (Sai Yau Gei: Sin Leui Kei Yun, 西遊記大結局之仙履奇緣)

Director – Jeffrey Lau – 1995 – Hong Kong – 87 + 98m

***

The Monkey King is banished to earth with loss of memory for a series of encounters with monsters and romantic interludes – screened as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Chinese New Year on Saturday January 29th

These two films are the first and second parts of the same story, so it makes sense to screen them together as a double bill. The starting point is the 16th century Chinese novel Journey To The West, which has also spawned such productions as the seminal Chinese animation The Monkey King (Wan Laiming, Cheng Tang; Part One, 1961; Part Two, 1964) and the long-running Japanese TV series Monkey (1978-80). The novel’s plot concerns a monk and his three assistants Pigsy, Sandy and Monkey who journey to the West (i.e. Central Asia and India) to obtain Buddhist texts.

Less an adaptation of the novel than a tangential story that uses the novel’s framework as its starting point, the films are bookended by two sequences, one at the start of Part One, the other at the end of Part Two, which start the tangential story rolling and wrap it up respectively.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Raging Fire (Nou Fo, 怒火)

Director – Benny Chan – 2021 – Hong Kong – Cert.15 – 126m

***1/2

A cop comes up against his former disillusioned protégé who is now the mastermind behind a criminal gang – in cinemas from Friday, November 12th

A big deal is about to go down. Uber-honest cop Cheung Sung-bong (Donnie Yen) heads a unit constantly in trouble with his superiors owing to his refusal to take pay offs and play their corruption game. They consequently repeatedly block him from accessing supplies and equipment he and his men need to properly do their job. This has gone on for years, with officers cracking under the inevitable strain from time to time. One such is his protégé Yau Kong-ngo (Nicholas Tse), booted off the force for beating a suspect to death. Cheung has kept in touch with him in the interim.

The night of the big deal, Cheung is denied his team’s required equipment and consequently arrives late to the scene of the incident. The absence of Cheung’s expertise on site causes a fellow police colleague to be killed along with various gang members. Unbeknownst to Cheung, the second gang involved in the deal – which double-crosses the first – is headed up by the disillusioned Yau.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Moment Of Romance (Tin Joek Yau Ching, 天若有情)

Director – Benny Chan – 1990 – Hong Kong – Cert.18 – 92m

***1/2

When a biker and gang member on the lam from a jewel heist takes a well-to-do girl hostage then falls for her, their romance is doomed – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

Gang member Wah (Andy Lau) is the archetypal bad boy who, in the opening sequence, speeds through a narrow gap between two lorries and wilfully breaks a wing mirror on a stationary police vehicle as he rides past. Director Chan keeps up the mayhem with a sequence of two competing lorries on a makeshift racing circuit, each with a pretty girl standing on top – until one of them crashes into a stationery car sending the falling girl through its windscreen and scattering the onlookers as the police approach.

Ascendant gang member Trumpet seems to have it in for Wah and puts him on getaway car duty for a jewel heist. Wah must improvise when cops happen by chance to turn up outside the building while the crime is in progress and during the ensuing pursuit by car, in which he gets the robbers successfully away from the scene, and on foot, his only way of escaping the cops is to take an innocent bystander hostage.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Crossing (La Traversée)

Director – Florence Miailhe – 2021 – France, Germany, Czechia – 84m

*****

Two children undergo a series of adventures as they flee an ethnic cleansing pogrom in this animated feature made with oil paint on glass – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Kyona and Adriel live with their mother, father and younger siblings in their village. One day, soldiers and dark, hooded shadow men arrive to massacre the locals Yelzid people. Somehow the family escape and board a train, but it’s stopped by soldiers for Control and their parents and younger siblings are detained on the platform. Kyona and Adriel must continue on alone and cross the border to safety.

This stakes its place in cinema history as the first feature to be realised using the time-worn animation technique of oil paint of glass. This technique makes the film analogous to watching a moving oil painting, but director Miailhe marshalls her serial images with a strong sense of narrative and additional filmic technique which hold the whole together.

Kyona loves to draw. Her sketchbook, which accompanies her everywhere, opens and closes the film, providing a perfect jumping off point to enter the oil on glass produced narrative.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Once Upon A Time In China (Wong Fei Hung, 黃飛鴻)

Director – Tsui Hark – 1991 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 135m

****1/2

Groundbreaking, period martial arts epic features some of the most spectacular stunt sequences ever filmed, spawned five sequels and made Jet Li a star – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

The real life Wong Fei Hung (1847-1925) was a Chinese practitioner of martial arts and medicine who lived in Foshan and has been the subject of over a hundred films. Tsui Hark’s 1991 production is one of the best known and spawned a series of six movies in total, four of them with Jet Li as Wong, arguably his most iconic role.

Militia-laden American and British and French ships anchored in the harbour put Foshan in an uneasy position and Wong is concerned, as well he might be since it turns out in the course of the narrative that the Americans under a man named Jackson (Jonathan Isgar) are not only tricking local men into debt via getting them to pay for their passage to San Francisco but also trafficking Chinese women into prostitution in the New World. The film isn’t particularly interested in these misdemeanours except as providing motivation for its villain.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Crossing (Guo Chun Tian, 过春天)

Director – Bai Xue – 2018– China – Cert. 12a – 99m

***1/2

Border crossings of no return. A Chinese teenage girl who regularly travels from Shenzhen into Hong Kong becomes involved with a gang smuggling iPhones across the frontier – available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland.

Sixteen-year-old Peipei (Huang Yao) lives in Shenzhen, but goes to school in neighbouring Hong Kong. She has to cross the China-Hong Kong border on a daily basis, waved through by border officials with better things to do than stop, question or search schoolgirls. She lives in a cramped apartment. Her father is rarely there because he works the night shift at a shipping yard, where she sometimes visits him. Her gambling mother often invites friends over to play Mahjong… Read more.

The Crossing is available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland.

Trailer:

UK Theatrical: Friday, March 22nd 2019.

Festivals: London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2018.

Review originally published in DMovies.org.