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Moonage Daydream

Director – Brett Morgen – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 135m

*****

David Bowie explored through his own words, accompanied by images of his life and art, many of his songs and extracts from numerous live performances – out in IMAX in the UK on Friday, September 16th and wide in cinemas on Friday, September 23rd.

In 2018, seasoned writer-director-editor Brett Morgen (Jane, 2017; Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, 2015; The Kid Stays In The Picture, 2002) was granted unprecedented access to David Bowie’s personal archives and four years later we have the first film to be supported by the Bowie estate. Knowing all this, you enter the cinema wondering exactly what you’re going to get.

You’re immediately confronted by a quote about Nietzsche and God which is then revealed as a quote from Bowie 2002, the film immediately putting Bowie on a par with one of the nineteenth century’s greatest philosophers and arguably even God. The subject of Nietsche doesn’t come back up, but God does, quite a bit, with Bowie’s religious-leaning song “Word On A Wing” putting in an appearance and David’s voice-over talking about “something…a force directing the universe”. Like many of us today, he struggles with the word ‘God’ – is it the right word?… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Mad God

Director – Phil Tippett – 1987-2021 – US – 83m

*****

A man in a gas mask descends into a dark, dangerous world on a mysterious mission, encountering strange creatures, humanoids and societal constructs along the way – stop-frame epic 34 years in the making as of Tuesday, June 28th, has become the most watched premier of 2022 on Shudder, where it plays in both the UK and the US from Thursday, June 16th; also plays London’s Prince Charles Cinema Tuesday. July 5th to Friday, July 8th

My immediate reaction after watching this was two-fold. On the one hand, wow!!! On the other, how on earth do I put the experience of watching this into words? Mad God definitely has a structure, yet what’s amazing about it is the visuals, the animation, the effects. Even though I’m familiar with the work of its director Phil Tippett (as one of the heirs apparent to stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen in the world of visual effects – career highlights include RoboCop, 1987; Jurassic Park, 1993, Starship Troopers, 1997) this film is something altogether different (even if its roots can be seen in his VFX work).

Following the destruction of a tower resembling Babel in a black cloud, and a lengthy quotation purporting to be from Leviticus 26, a man in gas mask and protective clothing descends into the bowels of the world on a mission, the exact nature of which is never revealed.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Wake Wood

Director – David Keating – 2009 – UK, Ireland – Cert. 18 – 90m

*****

Things are not what they seem, supernatural power is abroad and terrible prices have to be paid in a mysterious, close-knit village community – out in UK cinemas from Friday, March 25th, 2011

This review originally appeared in Third Way.

This presages the recent relaunching of Hammer Films, a huge cultural force back in the 1950s and 60s reworking such horror staples as Dracula and Frankenstein. So far UK cinemas have hosted (1) Let Me In‘s arguably pointless US remake of terrific Swedish vampire effort Let The Right One In and (2) predictable, New York tenant in peril outing The Resident. Wake Wood is not only far and away the best of the three, but also fits in with the Hammer ethos – here represented by a mysterious, close-knit village community where things are not what they seem, supernatural power is abroad, and terrible prices have to be paid for misjudged actions. A fair bit of blood and gore is added for good measure.

After their only daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) is fatally savaged by a dog, Irish city dwellers vets Patrick and Louise Daly (Aidan Gillen from The Wire and Eva Birthistle) move to the isolated village of Wake Wood to start over.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

23 Walks

Director – Paul Morrison – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 102m

****1/2

A man over sixty meets a woman of around the same age over 23 walks with their respective dogs – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

Walk 1. Dave (Dave Johns) is out walking his Alsatian Tilly (Sheila) in a narrow, muddy alleyway one day when he runs into Fern (Alison Steadman) walking her terrier Henry (Dennis). Not that either they or we know their names at this stage – he is the bloke with the big dog without a lead that she has to get past, and she’s not impressed. He should have a lead, she says. He’s deeply apologetic.

Walk 2. He now has a lead and apologises for the previous day. They walk, they talk. Thus begin the eponymous 23 walks, with interruptions after a while mostly on Dave’s side of the story but a few on hers too. Both are in difficult relationship situations – his wife is catatonic and residing in a care home, the cost of which is putting him behind on the rent of his long-standing council home, her husband has run off with a younger model, his secretary. When we finally, briefly meet her husband, he appears cruel and uncaring in his treatment of his ex.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Brand New Testament (Le Tout Nouveau Testament)

Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

Review originally published in Reform, read the full review here.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

At the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981), the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) bumbles around in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.” A similar sense of whimsy pervades the latest film from Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) who reworks God The Father as a slobbish despot. Many people in contemporary Western culture struggle with the idea of a loving, patriarchal God so if you’re going to have a crack at exploring Christian theology for the unchurched, this is not a bad place to start… [Read the rest]

Review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.

See also alternative review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Brand New Testament (Le Tout Nouveau Testament)

Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

Original UK release date 25/03/2016, cert.15, 113 mins

Review originally published in Third Way, read the full review here.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

The idea of God being an utter bastard sounds theologically none too edifying, yet in the hands of Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) that’s not the case. It’s whimsical in the same way as Ralph Richardson playing the Supreme Being bumbling around at the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981) in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.” [Read the rest]

Review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

See also alternative review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Wings Of Eagles

Serving the true God

Wings Of Eagles
Directed by Stephen Shin, Michael Parker
Certificate 12, 108 minutes
Released 12 March 2018

A sequel of sorts to Chariots of Fire, Wings Of Eagles tells the story of Eric Liddell’s missionary years in China. He’s played here by Joseph Fiennes, an actor who has grappled with one aspect or another of Christianity in several stories (Risen, The Handmaid’s Tale, Luther) and seems to thrive on roles like this. The film’s focus on British missionary work in China evokes The Inn of the Sixth Happiness about Gladys Aylward.

Liddell famously refused to run an Olympic race on Sunday, believing that no work should be done on the Lord’s Day. Later, he went to China with the London Missionary Society, taking his family with him, then sending them home after the Japanese invaded… [Read the rest]

Trailer:

Review originally published in Reform, March 2018.

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Features Live Action Movies

Shelter

Director – Paul Bettany – 2014 – US – Cert. 18 – 105m

*****

Released on DVD in 2016.

First time British writer director Paul Bettany (better known as an actor) dedicated this to “the couple who lived outside my building”. Illegal Nigerian, Muslim immigrant Tahir (Anthony Mackie) and American, agnostic junkie Hannah (Jennifer Connelly) are two homeless people who collide on the streets of New York. A catalogue of pitfalls awaits them – theft of belongings, debt, prostitution, coming off drugs, illness, the cost of medicines, a winter twenty below zero. Both have lived lives that have gone drastically wrong. In a quieter moment they talk of belief and God. This compelling film really gets under the skin of what it means to be homeless.

Trailer:

Published in Reform in 2016 as part of a Film and Video discussion starters compendium of ten reviews.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Jurassic Park

(Review originally published in Third Way, May 1993.)

Director – Steven Spielberg – 1993 – US – PG – 127m

*****

A wealthy philanthropist brings dinosaurs to life from preserved fragments of their DNA to populate his island theme park– in cinemas from 16th July 1993

“God creates dinosaurs.

God kills dinosaurs.

God creates man.

Man kills God.

Man creates dinosaurs.”

– Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), chaos theoretician.

“Dinosaurs kill man.

Women take over the world.”

– Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), palaeobotanist.

“Creation is an act of will: next time, it’ll be flawless.”

– John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), creator of Jurassic Park.

Set to become the biggest grossing movie of all time (if it hasn’t already done so by the time you read this), Steven Spielberg’s latest offering concerns rich industrialist John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) theme park built around his dream to delight children with wonders come to life. The wonders are dinosaurs, cloned from dino DNA ingested by prehistoric insects subsequently drowned and preserved in amber. For more on this aspect of the story, read co-screenwriter Michael Crichton’s original (and best-selling) novel; Spielberg, who races through small chunks of plot as quickly as he can, isn’t interested in them half as much as he is in dinosaurs.… Read the rest