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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 – out in cinemas on Thursday, November 18th

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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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

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Throne Of Blood (Kumonosu-jo)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1957 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 110m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also 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.

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays. In 1957, Kurosawa reworked it against the backdrop of feudal, 16th Century Japan. Ascendant samurai Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) hear from an old crone at a spinning wheel in the forest that Washizu will become Lord of Cobweb Castle, later to be succeeded by Miki’s son. Washizu’s wife Asaji (Isuzu Yamada, her face rigidly fixed in Noh mask poses) preys on his insecurities to convince Washizu to murder his way to the top. Slayings, ghost sightings, hand washing and his demise duly ensue.

Not only does Kurosawa jettison all Shakespeare’s dialogue, he also makes the material thoroughly his own even while remaining true to its essence. For instance, when Washizu, eating in public, sees Miki’s ghost, Mifune with the camera following him starts running around like a man possessed, slashing wildly at an unseen apparition.… Read the rest

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Dark Water (Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara, 仄暗い水の底から)

Director – Hideo Nakata – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Currently available to view on Amazon Prime, BFI Player and Shudder.

Review originally published in Funimation UK to coincide with the UK Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release date 14/10/2016.

Jeremy Clarke on Hideo Nakata’s urban ghost story.

At the centre of Hideo Nakata’s film Dark Water (2002) is the powerful bond that exists between a mother and her child. Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of divorce proceedings and while all the financial arrangements have been agreed, the question of who gets custody of the couple’s daughter has yet to be settled. Yoshimi is assured that in cases where the child is less than six years old, the mother tends to get custody. However, her former husband is attempting to discredit her to prevent this happening.

This is all very stressful to Yoshimi. For the time being however she and her almost six year old daughter Iku (Rio Kanno) need to find a place to live.… Read the rest

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Ring (Collection)

Ring

Director – Hideo Nakata – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

Spiral (Rasen)

Director – Joji Iida – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

** 1/2

Ring 2

Director – Hideo Nakata – 1999 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 95m

*****

Ring 0

Director – Norio Tsuruta – 2000 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 99m

***1/2

Ring plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank, also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Ring and Ring 2 are on Shudder.

You watch a short, scary video on the VCR. Then your phone rings… you have a week to show it to someone else – or die! Ring (1998) took the world by storm.

A single parent, TV journalist investigates a cursed videotape…

I review Arrow’s Ring Collection for All The Anime.

Ring plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank, also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Ring and Ring 2 are on Shudder.

Trailer:

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Ishiro Honda Double Feature: The H Man (Bijo to Ekitai-ningen, 美女と液体人間) and Battle In Outer Space (Uchu Daisenso, 宇宙大戦争)

The H Man

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1958 – Japan – Cert. X – 86m

Battle in Outer Space

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1959 – Japan – Cert. U – 90m

Alongside the standalone release of Mothra (1961) comes a double bill of two more Toho science fiction movies directed by Ishiro Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya: , The H Man (1958) and Battle In Outer Space (1959). The Toho studio is associated more with monster movies than any other genre, notably Godzilla (1954) and Mothra. The superior entries in this cycle tend to be the ones they directed, including the initial 1954 film which ticked all the right boxes to prove a massive success.

When no-one at Toho was quite sure what had made Godzilla work, the pair collaborated on a number of different SF films before everything came together on Mothra. The H Man is a monster film dressed up in gangster trappings while Battle in Outer Space is an epic with space stations, flying saucers, rocket ships, an alien moon base and alien mind control… [read more]

Over at All The Anime, I review Eureka!’s Ishiro Honda double bill Blu-ray.

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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 – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

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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Barking Dogs Never Bite (Flandersui gae)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2000 – South Korea – 110m

****1/2

Available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th.

Lecturer Yun-ju (Lee Sun-jae) is looking out the window of his apartment in a block of flats and having been recently passed over for a professorship is on the phone to a colleague, but can’t concentrate because of a persistent dog barking. He resolves to do something about it. Chancing later upon a dog without an owner near his front door, he takes it up to the roof but then, unable to drop it off the balcony, takes it down to a basement corridor and traps it in an old wardrobe.

Maintenance office worker Park Hyun-nam (Doona Bae) is visited by a little girl in a yellow waterproof to get her missing dog posters officially stamped so that they won’t get taken down.

Hen-pecked by his working, pregnant wife Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung), Yun-ju learns from a colleague that the person who got the professorship has died so the position should now be his – for a $10 000 bribe. And the barking hasn’t stopped – he got the wrong dog because the little girl’s posters mention that the missing dog can’t bark following a throat op.… Read the rest

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Mr. Vampire (Geung see sin sang)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

If your knowledge of vampire lore comes from Western movies about Dracula you’re in for some real surprises with the 1985 Hong Kong movie Mr. Vampire. This is the movie that put the Chinese hopping vampire on the map.

It’s evening, as mortuary assistant Man-choi (Ricky Hui) checks a number of upright standing corpses with talismans affixed to their foreheads. All present and correct. Behind him a corpse without a talisman advances towards him. By the time he’s realised this is fellow mortuary assistant Chau-sang (Chin Siu-ho) playing a prank, the resultant air flow has blown the talismans off the other foreheads and eight vampires are hopping towards them, Man Choi runs to fetch his employer, Master Gau (Lam Ching-ying)…

I review Mr. Vampire for All The Anime to coincide with the film’s UK Blu-ray release from Eureka! See also my Manga Mania review published back in the nineties to coincide with the film’s UK VHS release from Made In Hong Kong.

Clip from Eureka! version:

Trailer (Cantonese, no subs) here:

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Mr. Vampire (Geung see sin sang)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1985 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 94m

*****

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania to coincide with the film’s UK VHS release from Made In Hong Kong. Running time as on VHS sleeve. See also my All The Anime review coinciding with the 2020 Eureka! Blu-ray.

SCREEN GEMS

MR. VAMPIRE

The Far East views vampires through completely different cultural baggage, the extraordinary result of which can be seen in seminal Hong Kong period horror outing Mr. Vampire (1985) – which spawned several sequels and influenced countless genre outings both in Hong Kong live action and Japanese animation.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Encounters Of The Spooky Kind (1980) sees director Sammo Hung spend the night in a haunted house where he encounters various undead manifestations. It’s no surprise that Hung acted as producer on the later Mr. Vampire, where director Ricky Lau distilled Chinese cadaver / vampire mythology into a subsequent industry staple. As Lam Ching-ying so clearly explains in Mr. Vampire: “There are good men and bad men…corpses and vampires…this corpse is turning into a vampire.” Producer and director went on to make Mr. Vampire 2, 3 and 4, all with corpse‑busting star Lam Ching-ying who returned a fifth time under a different director for the present day Magic Cop / Mr.Read the rest