Categories
Animation Features Movies

Belle (Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime)

Director – Mamoru Hosoda – 2021 – Japan – Cert. tbc – 121m

*****

A bereaved, teenage girl starts to emerge from her shell when she signs up for a virtual world on her smartphone – in cinemas in the BFI London Film Festival 2021 with its UK Premiere on Thursday, October 7th and its Scottish Premiere in Scotland Loves Anime on Saturday, October 16th

‘U’ is an internet, virtual world of high tech, futuristic architecture. When you sign up, you receive your own personalised avatar built from your biometrics. You have the chance to start over in a new world.

Teenager Suzu (voice: Kaho Nakamura) could do with that chance. She lives with her dad (voice: Koji Yakusho from Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda, 2018; The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017; Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001; Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, 1996; Tampopo, Juzo Itami, 1985) in a small town somewhere in the East of Japan. She doesn’t really communicate with people at her school – not Luka (Tina Tamashiro), the sax player in the school band, not Kamishin (Shota Sometani from To The Ends Of The Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019; First Love, Takashi Miike, 2019; Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017; The Boy And The Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, 2015; Himizu, Sion Sono, 2011) who set up the canoe club but hasn’t been able to attract any members, not Shinobu (Ryo Narita) who proposed to her – well, told her he wanted to protect her – when she was six.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Hello World (ハロー・ワールド)

Director – Tomohiko Ito – 2019 – Japan – 97m

****

A social misfit schoolboy must rescue a girl classmate from the rogue software underpinning a virtual, future version of Kyoto with the help of his time travelling, ten years older self who is in love with her – plays online in the Japan Foundation Touring Programme 2021 in the UK, 48 hour rental window from 6pm, Monday, March 1st

Kyoto, 2027. Bookwormish Naomi Katagaki (voice: Takumi Kitamura) doesn’t really fit in at his Kyoto school. When he walks there in the morning, the fact of his head being buried in a self-improvement book seems the perfect metaphor for his complete lack of social skills. Asked by a bright, pretty classmate if he’d like to join her and a bunch of others for karaoke after school, he doesn’t really know how to respond and before we know it, she and the group have gone.

He doesn’t really pay attention to those around him, so he gets ignored. While he’s working out what food to select in the canteen lunch queue, everyone has dived in and taken everything but the one option no-one wants. Only when the subject of who is to volunteer for the library duty comes up do his fellow students take any interest in him – by recommending him for the post to which he agrees more out of an inability to say no than from any real desire to take it on.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Vast Of Night

Director – Andrew Patterson – 2019 – US – Cert. 12 – 91m

*****

A radio DJ and a young switchboard operator discover strange noises in the ether which may possibly be of great significance to the small US town where they live in the fifties – on Amazon Prime since Friday, May 29th 2020

Bookended with a curious and somewhat redundant framing device which sets up an episode of black & white, fifties TV show Paradox Theater called The Vast Of Night, to which the otherwise colour film periodically and pointless returns from time to time, this is an enigmatic little tale set in the small rural US town of Cayuga where the local high school is set to host a basketball team for a match.

Older teenager Everett (Jake Horowitz) is trying to sort out technical problems before the game gets under way: Sam reminds him that last time this happened, it was a squirrel that had chewed through a wire and the wire was still in its mouth. This story seems to crop up every few minutes as yet another character relates their own abridged telling of it. And 16 year old Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) wants him to show her how the tape recorder she’s just bought works.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Yes, God, YES

A plea for honesty

Yes, God, YES
Directed by Karen Maine
Certificate 15, 77 minutes
Released digitally on 17 August

Despite its provocative title suggesting a racy sex comedy about religion, this is actually a gentle independent film exploring the everyday inadequacies of American teenagers growing up within a conservative Catholic tradition. Essential life issues, including sex, truth telling, lying and religion, come up.

There’s a rumour going round Alice’s Catholic high school that she (Natalie Dyer) has been “salad tossing”. Having no idea what this means, she spends much of the film trying to find out. Impressed that Nina (Alisha Boe) has been on a four-day camp and seems to have her life together, Alice signs up.

The camp takes place at a Catholic retreat centre staffed by a nun and Father Murphy (Timothy Simons). Alice is immediately attracted to Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz), the camp leader and school football team captain. When Nina asks Alice to surrender her watch and mobile phone “because you’re on Jesus’ time”, Alice keeps her phone hidden to play games on it… [Read the rest]

I review Yes, God, YES for Reform.

Available to view on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Trailer:

Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

Blue Spring (Aoi Haru, 青い春)

Director – Toshiaki Toyoda – 2001 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 83m

*****

Dual format Blu-ray/DVD available at Arrow Video’s Third Window Films site.

Teenage high school movie Blue Spring (2001) centres on the leader of a violent boys’ gang in their final year. The nonchalant Kujo (Ryuhei Matsuda) has befriended Aoki (Hirofumi Arai in his debut role) since the latter first joined his class in their infancy: these days Aoki is Kujo’s number two. The gang now comprises eight boys and periodically re-stages a terrifying ritual. In the opening scene, four of the boys chicken out while the other four including Kujo and Aoki take part.

Their flat school roof has a one storey tower accessible by metal fire escape type stairs. On the roof’s edge is a metal railing overlooking the open ground in front of the school building. The four boys climb over the railing so that their backs are facing the several storey drop below and hold on to the railing with their hands… [Read more]

I reviewed Blue Spring for All The Anime on its 2019 Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format release.

Categories
Animation Features Movies

A Silent Voice (Eiga Koe no Katachi, 聲の形)

Director – Naoko Yamada – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 130m

****

Groundbreaking and innovative Japanese drama about school children, bullying, remorse, isolation and self-loathing. And it’s animated – in cinemas from Friday, March 17th 2017. And now on Netflix

Egged on by Naoka Ueno (voice: Yuki Kaneko) then later shunned by classmates for his bullying of new girl in class Shoko Nishimiya ( Saori Hayami), who happens to be deaf, Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino) stops interacting with them and withdraws. This is represented onscreen by the extraordinary graphic device of an ‘X’ over the faces of his fellow schoolmates whenever they appear. It’s a very powerful way of expressing his isolation. Five years on, wrecked with guilt about his treatment of Nishimiya, he learns sign language and decides to befriend her and to make amends…

This film may well broaden your idea of what animation is capable. It’s nothing like Disney and equally it’s light years from Japanese SF action fest Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988) although it likewise started life as a manga and concerns teenagers. These teens, however, are not rebels against the system but simply very ordinary, screwed up kids. If this were British we’d probably have made it as a live action drama, possibly for television… [read more]

Read the full review at DMovies.orgRead the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Gladiator (1992)

Director – Rowdy Herrington – 1992 – US – Cert. 15 – 101m

**

UK theatrical release: June 26th, 1992.

PLOT

Hitting on hard times, loner Tommy Riley (James Marshall) is living in a low life neighbourhood on Chicago’s South Side. High school days are punctuated by fights during the breaks; at night, Pappy Jack (Robert Loggia) rides around eyeing street brawls in search of new boxing talent. The moment he sets eyes on Riley defending himself in an alley, Pappy Jack signs him for a Friday night fight – to which Riley agrees in the face of loan sharks cornering him regarding payment his out-of-town father’s (John Heard) debts. Riley senior is attempting to put an alcoholic past (due to his wife’s untimely death) behind him, and believes that his current travelling salesman job will bring him back up from the social depths. The son’s match pays off the father’s immediate debts, but Tommy finds himself unwillingly trapped in the boxing game by Pappy Jack’s promoter boss Jimmy Horn (Brian Dennehy) when the latter buys Riley senior’s loan sharks’ debt so that he “owns” the lad. But our hero isn’t about to take all this lying down; he’s a fighter!… Read the rest