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Bob Marley
One Love

Director – Reinaldo Marcus Green – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 104m

***1/2

From his childhood in poverty in Jamaica, Bob Marley rises to stardom and international fame as the bast known proponent of reggae music – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 16th

All this movie has to do to succeed is give us lots of Bob Marley’s recordings and show us lots of images of him doing things in the process. That’s what the movie says on the tin and that’s what you find inside. It fundamentally delivers what its audience expects and will probably do very well. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a particular fan, over the years Marley’s music has seeped inescapably into both the popular and my own consciousness: it’s good, positive stuff which genuinely hits a tangible musical groove. I watched the movie and had the good time I was expecting. And Kingsley Ben-Adir is watchable enough as Marley.

However.

Anyone who comes to this wanting to know more about Bob Marley will find this a frustrating experience. Director Green, who co-wrote the script, fails to introduce a number of characters properly. Among Marley’s entourage of musicians and friends, for instance, I couldn’t tell you which one in the film is Peter Tosh (Alex-A Game), who is something of a lesser legend in the world of reggae.… Read the rest

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The Land
Where Winds
Stood Still
(Zhel Toqtaghan Zher)

Director – Ardak Amirkulov – 2023 – Kazakhstan – Cert. none – 108m

*****

A Kazakh mother made homeless by Soviet policy must protect her two sons in the harsh environment of the Steppes – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

An historical, period, survival movie. In the wake of the Russian Revolution, Soviet forced collectivisation polices, intended to have a levelling effect, instead forced Kazakh peasants off the land and led to the famine of the early 1930s. People were reduced to eating livestock essential for agricultural production, not to mention each other.

In a barren Steppes landscape loosely reminiscent of the Spaghetti Western, mother Jupar and her two pre-teenage sons Jolan and Boshay must survive mounted gunmen, starvation, extreme weather, wolves, and hungry fellow human beings. Jupar carries a concealed knife within her clothing and will stop at nothing to protect her kids in one of the most powerful expressions of motherhood ever to grace the screen.

Their seeming nomadic existence is however not without purpose; she has to get them to the eponymous Land, the village where she was born, and safety. Yet the dangers they face on the way are legion.… Read the rest

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Mind-Set

Director – Mikey Murray – 2022 – UK – Cert. 18 – 90m

***1/2

A woman seeks her way out of a relationship crisis via an affair with a new work colleague – drama masked as deadpan comedy is out in UK cinemas and on demand on Friday, October 6th

NSFW

Lucy (Eilis Cahill) and Paul (Steve Oram) have grown tired of one another. She works days at an uninspiring office job, bringing in the bread and butter money. He works from home as a screenwriter, with one filmed script to his credit. The film received poor reviews because, as she charitably says, the director did a poor job. Paul is now working on another screenplay, about “a space cadet coming to terms with his sexuality”, and there is a possibility that Nick (Jason Isaacs) might just make it happen.

Hosting a party, the couple give a tour of the premises. Paul opines about the virtues of the bidet in the bathroom – it can wash your cock or your vag if, say, you were at a party – while Luce notices the new bloke from work Daniel (Peter Bankolé) has turned up, presumably invited by one of her work colleagues.… Read the rest

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La Syndicaliste
(lit. The Union Rep,
US: The Sitting Duck)

Director – Jean-Paul Salomé – 2022 – France – Cert. 15 – 121m

***1/2

After a smart and tough-talking woman union rep in the nuclear power industry is attacked, tied up and raped in her own home, the police suggest she may have staged the attack herself – out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 30th

Or, as its opening title states in the English subtitled print shown to press, La Syndicaliste Based On A True Story. That title comes after an opening in 2012 in which police are called to the home of Maureen Kearney (Isabelle Huppert) where her cleaning lady has freed her from a chair to which she was tied before being raped by an intruder. The forensic team are all over the premises, taking away evidence. At the police station, she requests a pad and pencil to write down the details of what happened. The police will later accuse Kearney of fabricating the whole incident herself.

The next half an hour or so is a flashback leading up to the incident. Immediately after the titles, it sets about establishing its heroine as a tireless campaigner for employee rights at French state-owner nuclear power company Areva, standing up for ruthlessly exploited workers in an Hungarian subsidiary and well in with Anne Lauvergeon (Marina Fois), the one female executive in an otherwise male boardroom who despite her reliability and excellent track record is being forced out, with as she later tells Maureen lots of dirty tricks used against her.… Read the rest

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Reality

Director – Tina Satter – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 83m

*****

A young woman working in US security services is questioned in her home by two FBI interrogators who believe she’s leaked classified documents to The Intercept – out in UK and Irish cinemas on Friday, June 2nd

This film is based on a true story. That commonly used phrase can encompass everything from attempts at verisimilitude through to extreme misrepresentation. This film, however, is something different from most films bearing that legend.

The true story on which this film is based is an interview of a woman by two FBI agents. That organisation’s protocols dictate that such incidents, planned ahead of their execution, must be recorded in transcription form. So the film is not based on the incident so much as it is based on the official transcript of it. That includes not only the verbal words, but also pauses or gaps on the parts of those speaking them.

Writer-director Satter was hooked by the transcript and has already turned it into the critically acclaimed Broadway play Is This A Room. Theatre and cinema, while they often share certain elements, are essentially two different media; a successful play has an immediate attraction to movie producers who believe its proven theatrical track record will sell cinema tickets, yet the cinema is littered with stagebound adaptation of plays which worked far better on stage than screen.… Read the rest

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The Boogeyman

Director – Rob Savage – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 98m

*** 1/2

Two sisters recently bereaved of their mother start to imagine something nasty waiting for them in the darkness of night – Stephen King adaptation is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 2nd

An uninvited man Lester Billings (David Dalmachian) turns up at the home-based office of therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) wanting to talk. His family died, and he is suspected of murdering them… but, he claims, it wasn’t him who did it. Harper has recently lost his wife, so it’s inevitable that Billings’ story will resonate with him. While Harper excuses himself to covertly call the police, Billings starts wandering round the home in which Harper lives with his two daughters – the teenage Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and the much younger Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair).

The scene in the office is the Stephen King short story (published in his Night Shift collection) and only a small part of the movie. It is, however, a highly significant part – the incident that sparks everything else off. Billings claims his family was slain by a hideous monster, and the impressionable Sawyer is at the age of childhood where she imagines monsters lurking in the closet or hiding beneath the bed.… Read the rest

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Reality

Interrogating the text

Reality
Directed by Tina Satter
Certificate 12a, 83 minutes
Released 2 June

A film named after not, as you might imagine, a state of truth, but a young woman, the main protagonist Reality Winner (Sydney Sweeney). She works in a US security facility, translating documents from Farsi to English. The room in which she works separates its workers into cubicles with dual computer screens and workstations. TVs on the wall constantly play Fox News.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. This is not one of those ‘based on a true story’ movies; it actually is a true story in that the dialogue (along with the pauses within it) is lifted from the FBI transcript of the real life interrogation of the real life Reality Winner.

So, the actors take the words, pauses and so forth, and… [Read the rest in Reform magazine]

Reality is out in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday, June 2nd.

Read my review at Reform magazine.

Read my alternative review for this site.

Trailer:

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Mr. Vampire IV
aka
Mr. Vampire
Saga IV
(Geung See
Suk Suk,
靈幻先生)

Director – Ricky Lau – 1988 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 96m

***1/2

A feud between Taoist and Buddhist neighbours, and a tentative romance between their boy and girl apprentices, are interrupted by the arrival of a coffin, from which a hopping corpse escapes – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, May 22nd as part of Eureka! Video’s Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels

The fourth and final ‘official’ Mr. Vampire film (i.e. to be made by Sammo Hung / Leonard Ho’s Bo Ho Films company).

This once again shakes up the formula to deliver something different from its predecessors. Where the third film replaced the franchise’s jiangshi (hopping corpses) with flying ghosts, this fourth entry brings jiangshi back again and yet, curiously, they only come into play in about half of the film. The other half concerns two next door neighbours who don’t get on with one another. As with the previous films, the knockabout comedy sensibility holds the whole thing together.

The second major change is the conspicuous absence of star Lam Ching-ying who previously played the jiangshi-fighting, Taoist priest. According to the Blu-ray booklet’s helpful essay on these films by James Oliver, this appears to be down to the fact that Lam simply wasn’t available, a theory backed up by the fact that he subsequently worked again with most of those involved in the franchise.… Read the rest

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Nocebo

Director – Lorcan Finnegan – 2022 – UK, Ireland – Cert. 15 – 96m

***

A mother and fashion designer’s stress levels increase when she hires a too good to be true Filipino au pair – on Shudder UK, US and Canada from Friday, February 24th

A nocebo is a negative placebo – a belief that some factor will cause a medical or psychological condition to get worse, which it then does.

Christine (Eva Green), a high-flying fashion designer, and her husband Felix (Mark Strong), who works in advertising, lead pressured lives, and they have a daughter Roberta, known to her friends as Bobs (Billie Gadsdon), at primary school. Deciding which of them is going to drop Bobs off at / pick her up from school is always a challenge.

Christine is in the middle of a shoot involving child models when she receives a phone call with bad news about “they’re pulling out the bodies” and has a nervous breakdown, suddenly experiencing bizarre and horrifying hallucinations, with everyone she sees on the set spouting boils, a fate also visited on a mysterious, blind dog covered in sores. A tiny beetle burrows into her neck, later resulting in an itchy sore.… Read the rest

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The Whale

Director – Darren Aronofsky – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 117m

***

An obese man nearing his death must confront people from his past as well as incidental visits from the present– out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 3rd

A dysfunctional body, a dysfunctional family, a dysfunctional world. Charlie (Brendan Fraser) has so abused his body that his obesity is on the verge of killing him. He is bereaved of his gay partner for whom he left his wife and eight-year old daughter and earns his living as an online English language tutor for high school students. His nurse friend and unpaid carer Liz (Hong Chau) visits him at regular intervals, but can’t get him to go to hospital since he doesn’t have a healthcare plan and anyway resents pouring money into the healthcare system.

The healthcare element will look a little weird to anyone living in the UK with its “free at the point of need” National Health Service.

His other visitors in the course of the film are his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), his wife Mary (Samantha Morton), a suited missionary (Ty Simpkins) and fast food delivery boy (Sathya Sridharan), the latter mostly heard at the door and only finally glimpsed towards the end.… Read the rest