Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Free Chol Soo Lee

Directors – Julia Ha, Eugene Yi – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 83m

****

Imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, Korean American Chol Soo Lee became a figurehead for a protest movement, something he felt unable to live up to – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 19th

In San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1973, Korean loner Chol Soo Lee was arrested and subsequently convicted for a gang murder. While it’s true he had foolishly borrowed a gun off a work colleague a few days previously and accidentally discharged it into his apartment wall giving himself a police record, he was not the murderer. He was identified on the flimsiest of premises by unreliable witnesses, possibly not helped by white cops who wanted to convict a felon for the crime and consign the case to history.

On what was to be his last journey through the outside world before many years in prison, he heard the Tower of Power song “You’re still a young man” on a car radio crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It resonated. As the years passed in prison, his mother abandoned him. He had fallen for a Japanese American girl he’d met Jean Ranko who subsequently told him in a letter that she had no romantic interest in him.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Pompo The Cinéphile (Eiga Daisuki Pompo-san, 映画大好きポンポさん)

Director – Takayuki Hirao – 2021 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 94m

*****

A film buff working as a movie producer’s assistant is unexpectedly given the job of directing his first feature film– out in cinemas on Wednesday, June 29th

Much in Pompo The Cinéphile riffs off Roger Corman’s legendary working methods. It takes place in a fictional Tinseltown named Nyallywood (what’s with the name? are they worried about getting sued?) and has near its centre the eponymous Pompo (voice: Konomi Kohara from Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train, Haruo Sotozaki, 2020; Sword Art Online, series, 2012-) who looks like a sprightly young girl (and is exactly that in occasional flashbacks) but is, in fact, a seasoned, teenage (!) producer of exploitation movies (sample titles: Across The 8th Dimension, Guns Akimbo, Zombizarre) starring a busty blonde named Mystia (voice: Ai Kakuma) who is currently shooting a Summer movie titled Marine with lots of girls in revealing bikinis fleeing a giant tentacled beastie at the beach with which the gun-wielding Mystia will do battle: quite literally a ‘tits and tentacles’ show “with just the right amount of sex appeal.” Director Hirao is, after all, the man behind similarly exploitative anime Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack!Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Directors – Hironobu Sakaguchi, Motonori Sakakibara – 2001 – Japan, US – Cert. PG – 106m

*****

Earth (and its attendant spirit Gaia) have been attacked by aliens, its human and animal populations decimated, its cities deserted – review originally published in Ad Hoc magazine, 2001

The first computer-generated movie to dispense with real live actors in favour of their computer-generated counterparts – at least as far as the visuals go – Final Fantasy The Spirits Within proves as radical a departure as the first animated feature Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937), the convincing computer-generated characters of Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) and the first computer-animated feature Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995).

The lead heroine’s hair and the creases in the characters’ clothing both convince utterly. The characters’ movements are taken off real people and fed into a computer by a process known as motion capture, which also provided the incredible moving freeze-frame moments in The Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999).

Mouth movements spouting pre-recorded speech doesn’t quite come off every time while the facial expressions haven’t quite managed all the subtleties of human visages. Most of them, true, though not quite all. But then, the computer technology here is way ahead of another of this year’s animation highlights, the cartoony Shrek (Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jensen, 2001).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Tremors

Director – Ron Underwood – 1990 – US – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

Review from TNT magazine, June 1990, republished here on the death of actor Fred Ward, May 2022

If Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) was Jaws In Outer Space, Tremors is Jaws In The Nevada Desert. As such, the film represents a return to the production values of the desert bound sci-fi of fifties alien invasion staple It Came From Outer Space (Jack Arnold, 1953). In place of the shark from Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) is a species of malevolent giant worm which burrows under the earth like something out of Frank Herbert’s Dune (most recent version: Denis Villeneuve, 2021).

It’s never explained where these monsters have come from, but then you tend not to worry about such things when one of them is about to knock down your home. Hapless victims disappear into sudden holes formed in the sand like a rerun of Blood Beach (Jeffrey Bloom, 1980); then muppet-like snakes grab people, bite them, and tug them under the ground, finally the full-grown beasties get to attack.

Producer-writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson plunder numerous other sources too, but the emerging whole is infinitely better than the sum of its parts.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

KIBA: The Fangs Of Fiction (Damashie No Kiba, 騙し絵の牙)

Director – Daihachi Yoshida – 2020 – Japan – 112m

*****

Forward thinkers take on the conservative old guard within a Japanese publishing corporation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

Megumi Takano (Mayu Matsuoka from One Night, Kazuya Shirashi, 2019; Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018; A Silent Voice, Naoko Yamada, 2016; Lesson Of Evil, Takashi Miike, 2012; Love Exposure, Sion Sono, 2008), daughter of local bookstore owner Takano (Shinya Tsukamoto), is as dedicated an editor as you’ll find anywhere in publishing. Alas, she lacks the political savvy needed to survive in its ruthless, corporate, dog-eat-dog world. When the owner of the publishing company Kunpu which employs her dies unexpectedly, she finds herself caught up in the machinations of a large organisation where some employees resist change while others plan to completely reinvent the business model to ensure the company’s survival, possibly at the expense of some of its employees.

Thus it is that new CEO Tamatsu (Koichi Sato from Fukushima 50, Setsuro Wakamatsu, 2020; Sukiaki Western Django, Takashi Miike, 2007; Where The Last Sword Is Drawn, Yojiro Takita, 2002) comes in with plans to restructure the company.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Shadows (殘影空間)

Director – Glenn Chan – 2020 – Hong Kong, China – 94m

*****

A forensic lady psychiatrist becomes convinced that a fellow psychiatrist’s treatment of his patients is encouraging them to commit murder – playing in the UK as part of the Chinese Visual Festival which runs until Sunday, July 25th

Award-winning social worker Chu kills his mother, wife and little girl before throwing himself out of a second floor window in a suicide attempt. Psychiatrist Dr. Tsui Ching (Stephy Tang from My Prince Edward, Norris Wong Yee-Lam, 2019; The Empty Hands, Chapman To, 2017) possesses the ability to see inside the subconscious mind of her patients, something she experiences like a vivid dream. She appears in a public talk before an audience alongside Dr.Yan. When he asks her view of humanity, she expresses her belief that people are inherently good. He thinks they are inherently bad, ascribing their motives to selfishness.

When Chu turns out to have been one of Dr.Yan’s patients, Tsui becomes convinced that by telling them to embrace their dark side rather than repress it, he is effectively encouraging them to commit murder. Advising Ho (Philip Keung – A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018; Shock Wave, Herman Yau, 2017), the cop who is investigating the case, she persuades him without any admissable evidence to investigate all of Yan’s patients.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies Series Television

Black Cat Detective (Heimao Jingzhang, 黑猫警长)

Director – Dai Tielang – 2010 – China – Cert. N/C U – 76m

Parental Warning: Although this drawn animation has a (completely legitimate) recommended UK U certificate, it contains a lot of gun and knife violence and, in the subtitles, one swear word.

****

Black Cat Detective and his fellow police protect everyday citizens from nefarious criminal animals including a mouse mastermind – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

A purple mole proudly shows the children sacks of supplies stocked in his granary for the coming Winter. Unfortunately, an evil criminal mastermind mouse (backed by music with a stinger cue ripped off the opening of Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) has his eye on these stocks and breaks in with his gang who get drunk on red wine and oil before passing the sacks out of the granary window, which action alerts the mother mole whose attempt at stopping them is thwarted by their throwing enough sax onto her to pin her down.

The cops led by Black Cat Detective turn up to shoot at the mice, one of whom they hit, and arrest the mole children on the premises, quickly realising their mistake and releasing the latter.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Melancholic (メランコリック)

Melancholic

Director – Seiji Tanaka – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

Melancholic

Director – Seiji Tanaka – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 15m

*****

On Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD, rental on Apple TV and Amazon from Monday, September 7th

Quiet, unemployed Tokyo University graduate Kazuhiko (Yoji Minagawa, also the film’s producer) lives with his similarly introverted parents. When one night his mum prematurely empties the family hot tub, he pays his first visit to the local bathhouse where he runs into chirpy classmate Yuri (Mebuki Yoshida) who talks him into attending their upcoming high school reunion.

At that event, he’s a fish out of water while everyone else gathers around the nondescript student Tamura (Yuta Okubo) who has since made good as a businessman and investor. Then Yuri rescues Kazuhiko and the pair sit conversing deeply on the staircase ignored by everyone else. A series of dinner dates follows, romance blossoms and before you know it he’s staying overnight at her flat.

Encouraged by Yuri, Kazuhiko gets himself one of two attendants’ jobs at the bathhouse run by the genial Mr. Azuma (Makoto Hada). Kazuhiko never wanted to go to work for a top company like most graduates and the work suits his temperament.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Killer (Dip Huet Seung Hung, 喋血雙雄)

Director – John Woo – 1989 – Hong Kong – Cert. 18 – 110m

*****

Starring Chow Yun Fat, Danny Lee, Sally Yeh

What’s it all about?

On the verge of retirement, contract killer Chow accidentally blinds singer Yeh during a hit that goes wrong. Guilt-ridden, he undertakes one last killing for the money to pay for the operation to restore her eyesight. Meanwhile, policeman Lee is determined to bring him to book.

Why is it in our top 100?

Because it enabled Woo to cross over from a Hong Kong to an international audience – a much more personal work than A Better Tomorrow (1986) or Hard Boiled (1992), complete with trademark bloody, balletic, bullet-strewn violence and familiar themes of guilt, redemption and brotherhood.

Something to tell your mates

Chow (his surname) is both a huge star in the Far East and an incredibly versatile, talented and charismatic actor comparable to Robert De Niro or Cary Grant. The detail in facial expression lost on VHS video is very much intact on MIHK’s impressive 1994 PAL laserdisc.

Originally published in Home Entertainment as part of a One Hundred Best Movies on Home Entertainment Formats feature.

Trailer: