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Animation Features Movies

A Greyhound
of a Girl

Director – Enzo d’Alò – 2023 – Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, UK, Latvia, Estonia, Germany – Cert. U – 88m

****1/2

A young, cookery-obsessed girl with a fear of dogs must come to terms with the fact that her beloved granny is dying – animated feature is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 28th

Ireland. Faced with an unsympathetic interview panel for the Ballymaloe Cooking School when she unwisely makes a tatty tart with bananas, young girl Mary (voice: Mia O’Connor) finds she has an ally in her granny (voice: Rosaleen Linehan) who gives the judges a friendly talking to when they reject her granddaughter. The girl can always come back next time. She and granny are driving home on a minor coastal road and granny is refusing to talk about her own childhood – apparently there was an incident involving a dog and a well – when granny swerves to avoid a dog and dents the car. Mary doesn’t like dogs, although she’s a caring child who stopped granny accidentally running over a hedgehog earlier.

Granny has been coughing all day. With the news that Mary’s bestie Ava (voice: Amelie Metacalf) is soon be leaving as her dad has got a job in England, it’s not a great time for the young girl, and it gets worse, when she discovers her gran has a fever and her mum calls an ambulance.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Let it Ghost
(Meng Gui 3 Bao,
猛鬼3寶)

Director – Wong Hoi – 2022 – Hong Kong – 100m

***

Three unlikely ghost stories from Hong Kong: an actor shoots a ghost scene with a real ghost, a young man’s girlfriend is possessed by a ‘horny ghost’, and a sweet romance develops as a cute little girl haunts a shopping mall – plays at the NFT on Friday, July 14th at 8.30pm as part of Focus Hong Kong 2023 at BFI Southbank which runs from Wednesday, July 12th to Saturday, July 15th

A ghost story shot anywhere else would probably set out to scare and unsettle, but in Hong Kong they have never hesitated to mix up their horror with other, seemingly incompatible genres. The first entry in this compendium of three ghost stories plays with notions of truth, reality and artifice through the time worn device of a film within the film, the second is a lightweight, gender-fluid, sex comedy while the third is a sentimental tale about a cute child and the passing of the era of the 1990s shopping mall.

In the first story, Scary Prison, a real ghost gets involved in the shooting of a TV series episode involving a ghost. The series is The Incarcerated Detective, set in a prison where the eponymous policeman investigates and apprehends evildoers among the inmates with his catchphrase, “Justice… always stands on the side of… Justice.”… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Vampire
Vs
Vampire
(Yi Mei Dao Ren,
一眉道人)

Director – Lam Ching-ying – 1989 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 87m

***1/2

A Taoist priest must defeat various supernatural forces including a Western-style vampire occupying a coffin in an old church – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, May 22nd as part of Eureka! Video’s Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels

Turned into a star by playing the Taoist priest who fights off jiangshi (hopping corpses) in the Mr. Vampire films, Lam went on to play similar characters in films and TV for the rest of his career until his death at age 44 in 1997. He directed this particular film himself, and while it sits easily alongside the ‘official’ Mr. Vampire entries, it’s a little bit different.

Once again, Lam’s Taoist priest and two bumbling assistants Hoh (Chin Siu-ho) and Fong (Lui Fong) battle with ghosts and other supernatural forces. First up is a ghost made up of excrement and teeth which escapes from imprisonment in a jar exposed to too much moonlight, which trope inverts Western vampire lore about burning up in sunlight.

Given directorial reins, Lam shows surprisingly little interest in jiangshi, their presence consisting of one friendly child (Lam Jing-wang) inspired by Mr.Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Enys Men

Director – Mark Jenkin – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

A lady environmentalist working on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast becomes subject to powerful, localised forces from the area’s past – out on UK Blu-ray/DVD combi and on BFI Player on Monday, May 8th

NB The title is pronounced “Enys Main”, the eponymous “Men” being as in “menhir”.

A radio receiver. A bird. An island. A woman in a red coat (Mary Woodvine). A flower. Jenkin seems to love the process of putting little bits of film together to make a whole that’s altogether larger than the sum of its constructed parts. If that same process was evident in his earlier, equally Cornish if less fantastical and black and white Bait (2019), his new film is radically different and, moreover, it’s in colour.

Enys Men is being touted as a horror film – presumably with Jenkin’s blessing if the trailer is any indication – but I’m not sure that’s exactly what this film is. Some horror fans may well come away wondering while they bothered, while viewers put off by the term ‘horror’ may well respond positively to Jenkin’s latest – provided they can be persuaded into the cinema to see it.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Dead
And The Deadly
(Ren Xia Ren,
人嚇人)

Director – Wu Ma – 1982 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 99m

*****

A couple planning an inheritance swindle convince their victim to play along then kill him, after which he comes back as a ghost to take revenge – classic and seminal HK kung fu comedy is out on UK Blu-ray in a 2K restoration.

Made three years ahead of Mr. Vampire (Ricky Lau, 1985), this puts all the elements of that film in place, apart from the vampires. Actually, they’re not so much vampires as hopping ghosts (jiangshi). There’s no hopping in The Dead And The Deadly, but there are ghosts.

Chu (Sammo Hung) becomes suspicious when best friend Ma Lucho (Wu Ma) dies, suspecting Mrs. Ma (Leung Mei Hei) and her priest companion (Chung Fat) of poisoning him. As becomes clear from an early scene in a brothel, Ma is not gifted with women, so Chu is surprised that his surviving wife is pregnant. What he hasn’t realised is that Ma is actually in on the scam and is only pretending to be dead.

But that changes about an hour in when Ma’s two co-conspirators kill him for real to get his money, as Mrs.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Rodeo
(Rodéo)

Director – Lola Quivoron – 2022 – France – Cert. 15 – 105m

***

Le Fast et la Furieuse. A young woman bike thief makes her mark on a group of bikers living in a bike repair shop run from a prison by its incarcerated owner – out in UK cinemas and exclusively on Curzon Hone Cinema on Friday, April 28th following its appearance in the BFI London Film Festival 2022

Julia (Julie Ledru) loves motorbikes. She loves riding them. And she loves stealing them. At various points in the narrative, she follows up ‘bike for sale’ ads, goes to see the seller, impresses them with her considerable knowledge, persuades them to let her test drive the bike by riding it alone for a certain distance then rides off with it. She’s also poor and living on a rundown housing estate, an environment beloved of a certain strata of French cinema (e.g. Two Of Three Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995; District 13, Pierre Morel, 2004). Not that you see much of this environment after the opening reel. She represents a very French form of anti-hero, and if you don’t have any problem with her sense of entitlement and the fact that she sees nothing wrong with stealing, this is a rollicking good yarn.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Queen Of Spades

Director – Thorold Dickinson – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

****1/2

A Russian army officer seeks the occult secret of playing cards that will earn him a vast fortune, but has not bargained for the dark, supernatural forces involved – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 23rd and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on January 23rd

1806, St. Petersburg. Unlike his well-connected aristocrat contemporaries in the army, Captain Goeman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) sees no opportunity for advancement. In a bookstore, he chances upon an arcane volume which the store owner suggests will offer various opportunities for personal betterment fraught with danger. Reading up on “people who have sold their soul”, he learns that the Countess (Pauline Tennant) made her fortune in a gambling den with the secret of three unbeatable playing cards for which she agreed to sell her soul after one of her lovers stole her considerable personal allowance, taking advantage of her needing him to leave quickly in order to prevent her husband’s discovering his presence in her bedchamber, which stolen monies she then needed to find a means of replacing.

As the Countess is now an old woman (Dame Edith Evans), Goeman resolves to get close to her by romancing her ward Lizavyeta Ivanovna (Yvonne Mitchell) using words for love letters suggested by contemporary aristocratic officer Andrei Andreyonov (Ronald Howard) with neither of them aware that they are actually interested in the affections of the same girl.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Detention
(Fanxiao,
返校)

Director – John Hsu – 2019 – Taiwan – 12A – 103m

****

Two Taiwanese students find themselves trapped in their school overnight under that country’s White Terror regime in 1962 – on Shudder (US, Canada) from Monday, February 21st

This is a real oddity: an adaptation of a video game set in a specific historic period of political turmoil. That period is Taiwan’s White Terror (1949-87) under which, among other things, numerous books were banned by the ruling Kuomintang party on the grounds of promoting left-wing or Communist ideas. Merely reading some of these books could provide grounds for execution.

Like the video game, the film is set in the Greenwood High School. It’s 1962 and boy and girl students Fang Ray-shin (Gingle Wang) and Wei Chong-ting (Tseng Jing-Hua) find themselves trapped overnight in the school building after flood waters destroy the access road to the school. What follows isn’t particularly linear in terms of its narrative as school corridors, walkways, rooms and halls are visited by various supernatural beings and become scenes of terror, torture and execution.

The elliptical and sometimes repetitive nature of the storytelling and its component images mean that the film isn’t always that easy to follow, at least not to Western audiences familiar with mainstream Hollywood narrative.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ghostbusters Afterlife

Director – Jason Reitman – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

A single parent mum and her two teenage kids relocate to a small American town to find strange, paranormal goings-on – currently streaming in Ultra HD and from Monday, January 31st on BD and DVD in the UK

Hollywood loves sequels to or reboots of successful films. The original Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984), in which three parapsychologists set up as a team to capture the many ghosts that have inexplicably begun appearing in New York City, was unlike anything that had gone before with its mixture of comedy, action and the paranormal. Deservedly a huge hit, it spawned the inevitable sequel Ghostbusters II (Ivan Reitman, 1989) which didn’t have a strong enough plot to maintain interest beyond the first 20 minutes or so. The reboot Ghostbusters (Paul Feig, 2016), recasting the parapsychologists as women, worked well enough.

Ghostbusters Afterlife, however, is another attempt at a sequel. A very brave attempt it is too, because sequels are often expected to basically rerun the original film in an attempt to serve the audience a second helping of what they enjoyed before. After seeing it, you might argue that Afterlife does that, but going in, you might wonder what on Earth is going on.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Prayer
(Gan Ho-Joong,
간호중)

Director – Min Kyu-dong – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12a – 108m

*****

Just how capable are caregiver androids of looking after their terminally ill patients? – thought-provoking science fiction from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

In a vast, multi-storey building complex, end of life patients are attended by Caregivers, lifelike female androids programmed to perform all the necessary tasks of palliative care, their faces modelled after their purchaser. Manufactured by the German TRS Corporation, they come in a variety of models, including an entry-level type with only basic functions and a more advanced models which can cope better with patients’ needs.

One patient is surrounded by Christian friends of his wife loudly singing praise and worship songs, to the annoyance of those living in nearby units. Adherents of the Christian religion play quite a significant part in the narrative, with nun Sister Sabina (Ye Soo-jung) going round putting stickers wherever she can in these complexes inviting people to phone her if they want to pray.

They might well want to take up her offer. A lot of the patients’ relatives / carers could do with some sort of assistance. Mrs. Choi (Yum Hye-ran from Default, Choi Kook-hee, 2018; Memories Of Murder, Bong Joon Ho, 2003) has sold the family home to pay for a Caregiver (also Yum Hye-ran) for her dementia-stricken husband (Yoon Kyung-ho from Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017).… Read the rest