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Features Live Action Movies

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

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Features Live Action Movies

The Fabelmans

Director – Steven Spielberg – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 151m

*****

The life and times of a young boy and amateur US movie maker whose extended family harbours an unexpected secret – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 27th

Throughout his career, Spielberg has continued to surprise. He’s made big blockbusters which seem, very often, to be about the intimacies of family relationships. Perhaps it was inevitable that, sooner or later, he would make something like The Fabelmans.

Orson Welles once said that Hollywood was the best train set a boy could have to play with. Presented with a train set, young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord) plays with it by staging train crashes, about which behaviour his brilliant, scientific nerd father Burt (Paul Dano) is less than pleased.

However, his mother Mitzy (Michelle Williams), after some thought, realises that her son need to see the trains crash over and over again, so secretly allows him to stage a crash and film it with the family’s Super 8 home movie camera to enable his required repeat viewing. This kindles within the boy a desire to make his own movies, and soon he’s enlisting his family, friends and neighbours in these enterprises.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Shorts

Piggy (Cerdita)

Director – Carlota Pereda – 2022 – Spain – Cert. 18 – 99m

*****

Director – Carlota Pereda – 2018 – Spain – 13m

*****

Fat-shaming, bullying, overbearing mothers, growing up as the local butcher’s daughter, and more – feature based on short is out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 6th

Sara (Laura Galán) is attempting to navigate the difficult waters of adolescence. It isn’t much fun if you’re different and cliques of your contemporaries gang up on you. In Sara’s case, she isn’t just fat, she’s also introverted and shuns people, which compounds the amount she gets teased. She often works in her father’s butchers shop, so bullies can easily put together insults based on fat and flesh and pork and meat. A clique of three, thinner girls – Roci (Camille Aguilar) and Maca (Claudia Salas) and their unwilling hanger-on Claudia aka Clau (Irene Ferreiro) – call her Piggy.

It’s Summer, and everyone is going down to the Madrigal (Waterfall) festivities at the pool on the river, where a mysterious out-of-towner is lounging about, but Sara sneaks down there later for a swim when she hopes nobody is around. She’s just getting into the water when the stranger (Richard Holmes) surfaces innocently, startling her.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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 – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 9th

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.

She takes time off work and sleeps with special breathing apparatus at night.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Return To Dust (Yin Ru Chen Yan, 隐入尘烟)

Director – Li Ruijin – 2022 – China – Cert. PG – 133m

***1/2

When two misfits are put into an arranged marriage by their respective, concerned families, a kindly, gentle relationship blossomsout in UK cinemas Friday, November 4th following its screening in the 2022 Edinburgh Film Festival

His family are worried about Iron Ma (Wu Renlin), also known as fourth brother. He seems content to live off his little piece of land tilling it with his donkey to grow crops, and raising pigs and chickens. He is less ambitious than third brother, who runs the local market and sets the prices for which crops are bought off local farmers. Third brother has done well for himself, and drives around in a flashy car. By way of contrast, Ma gets around by walking, or donkey and cart if he has produce to transport.

Her family are likewise worried about Cao Guiying (Hai Qing), a shy woman who can’t control her bladder. Both Ma and Cao’s respective families view their offspring as a liability and want to get them married off as soon as possible, not least to get out of being responsible for them. So they arrange a marriage for the pair of them to get them off their hands.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

After Yang

Director – Kogonada – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 96m

****1/2

In the distant future, a couple must come to terms with the loss of the eldest child, actually an A.I. purchased as an ethnically programmed companion for their adopted South East Asian daughter – SF mystery drama is on Sky Cinema from Thursday, September 22nd

Memory is one of the great themes of cinema because when you point a moving image camera at someone, you capture and preserve their moving image for posterity. (Something similar happens when you record the sound of someone’s voice. Or even if you write down their words on paper, a simpler, more primitive form of recording.) Memory is also one of the elements which defines us as human beings.

Full marks, then, to director (actually writer, director, editor) Kogonada for taking the short story Saying Goodbye To Yang by Alexander Weinstein and expanding it into a feature. As described in the parlance of the distant future world in which this is set, Yang is a technosapien (i.e. a robot), a purchased elder sibling of a family comprising father Jake (Colin Farrell), mother Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja).

Mika is adopted, and her ever so Hollywood liberal parents – he a white man who has built a business around his passion for tea, she a black woman who is a hard-working, highly motivated high-flier in a demanding corporate business that’s never really defined – are concerned that she connect with her South East Asian heritage.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Chilli Laugh Story (闔家辣)

Director – Coba Cheng – 2022 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12a – 94m

****

A young man successfully markets his mother’s chilli sauce in the pandemic lockdown until the lucrative business it unexpectedly generates is taken off him– out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, July 15th and in the US and Canada on Friday, July 22nd

This starts off with a very sweet – no, make that spicy – memory of 2002 when Coba Cheng (Edan Lui Cheuk-On) was a small boy of five and visited his mum’s village where he tried her chilli sauce for the first time. It burned his mouth, but was always a part of his life from then on.

Jump to mid-2020. Hong Kong, like everywhere else, is in the middle of the pandemic. Coba is now working his job from home, and he and his parents are struggling to live with each other in the same enforced space. His dad Alan (Ronald Cheng) is engaged in a no-way forward argument with a delivery man in a surgical mask who won’t tell him what the unknown package is until dad has paid the delivery fee, which dad won’t do until he knows what it is, which Mr.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Vortex

Director – Gaspar Noé – 2021 – France – Cert. 15 – 142m

*****

An elderly man struggles to care for his ailing wife who has dementia – out in cinemas on Friday, May 13th

Discounting the lengthy titles detailing among other things the various film clips and images used, this throws us a series of images in a pillarboxed 4:3 format with curved corners at the edges (suggesting a projected slide show or physical, analogue photographs mounted in an album) then the young Françoise Hardy singing “Mon Amie La Rose” loads irony into the proceedings: the rose is fresh and speaks to us of love, the singer young and yet to be ravaged by the passage of time. (It’s not mentioned here, but last year, Hardy announced she could no longer sing as a result of cancer treatments, which lends the video a certain poignancy today – even more so in the context of this film.)

Then the man we’ll call the father (Dario Argento, director of such Italian gialli as Suspiria, 1977; Tenebrae, 1982) waves through windows across a courtyard at the woman we’ll call the mother (Françoise Lebrun from The Mother And The Whore, Jean Eustache, 1973) and they meet up for a glass of wine on their balcony.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

La Mif

Director – Fred Baillif – 2021 – Switzerland – Cert. 15 – 110m

*****

The lives of inmates in a girls’ care home, and the working lives of the staff who look after them – out in UK & Irish cinemas on Friday, February 25th

This ‘docudrama’ (for want of a better term) follows the residents of a Geneva care home for vulnerable young people.

Screaming blue murder, a young woman is escorted from the premises by a policewoman.

Lora (Claudia Grob), the manager of this care home, returns after time off to say “hi” to the girls. (The fact of her returning is thrown in to the narrative almost casually at this point; only later does its significance become apparent.) These girls are vulnerable children in the State’s care, and Lora feels like a mother to them. They, in turn, refer to the home – meaning themselves and the other girls, with their support workers on hand in the background as sort of substitute parents – as La Mif (French slang for “the family”; literally, “The Fam”).

Novinha (Kassia Da Costa) is a sassy, pushy teenager who talks frankly about sex, And everything else. Audrey (Anaïs Uldry) – the arrested girl from the opening – has been caught having sex with a boy three years younger than her; after this, the centre is turned into a home for girls only.… Read the rest