Categories
Documentary Features Movies

Shock Wave 2, (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia 2, 拆彈專家 2)

Director – Herman Yau – 2020 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15 – 120m

****

A former bomb disposal expert suspected of a terrorist atrocity must prevent a terrorist organisation from destroying the Hong Kong International Airport and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

If you’ve seen Shock Wave (Herman Yau, 2017) you’ll know that a sequel with Andy Lau reprising his character wouldn’t be possible. Both director and star clearly wanted to capitalise on the first film, however, so they’ve simply dumped character names and most of what happened in the first film, reinvented the main character and started all over again with a completely different story. This has the effect of making the audience feel that they’re seeing another film in the series but at the same time seeing something that’s brand new, not at all a carbon copy.

Except that in the broadest outline it IS a carbon copy: once again, Andy Lau plays an heroic member of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) with Philip Keung as a friend and colleague in the force, this time round named Lee Yiu Sing, while the plot involves the potential huge bombing of an important Hong Kong landmark – here the Hong Kong International Airport which is blown up at the start only for a voice-over to explain that this terrorist atrocity has been prevented thanks to one man.… Read the rest

Categories
Live Action Movies Shorts

Old Man And A Dog (老人與狗)

Director – Ryan Chan Hon-yan – 2019 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15+ – 30m

*****

A security guard nearing the end of his life is given an ageing, dying dog by his grandson – online in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

When they’re in the hospital waiting for grandpa while he sees the doctor, Ka Chun (Karson Chan Ka Hei) asks his mum (Ivy PangTracey, Li Jun, 2018), “how come grandpa doesn’t have a dog?” There follows a huge row between Ms. Chan and the medical staff when she learns they’re not operating on her father because he’s signed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ papers. The boy, meanwhile, stands beside his grandpa’s bedside. His grandpa (Paul Carr) is on a ventilator.

The elder Mr. Chan visits the hospital on his own. The clock that’s fallen off the wall in the doctor’s office seems to presage his own demise. His boss (Toby Cheng) at the security firm tells him not to come in, he’s too ill. The firm will compensate him, so there are no financial issues.

Ka Chun visits grandpa at home – bringing with him a dog called (somewhat hilariously to English ears) Ah-fuk.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

37 Seconds

Director – Hikari – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 115m

*****

A wheelchair-bound, young woman manga artist struggles to become independent of her over-protective mother – on Netflix from Friday, January 31st, 2020

Yuma (Mei Kayama), wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy from birth, lives with her mother Kyoko (Misuzo Kanno) who looks after her in a small Tokyo apartment. However Yuma is far from helpless with a day job as an uncredited manga artist who draws and writes the comics allegedly penned by fast rising YouTube star Sayaka (Minori Hagiwara). The uncomplaining Yuma secretly yearns for Sayaka’s celebrity, if not to actually be her at least to know what it feels like, but Sayaka bans her from attending any public events such as book signings.

Yuma starts exploring ways of going independent of Sayaka. She shows some work to Iketani (Shohei Uno) from Sayaka’s publishers who tells her that what she’s produced is good but alas too close to Sayaka’s work. Finding a bunch of porn manga magazines in a park, she phones around to see it the magazines are taking submissions and embarks on an erotic space opera series, lovingly rendered in a sequence which is not so much full animation but more like an animated peruse through pages of manga, only to be told when she goes to see a friendly editor Ms.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Justine

Director – Jamie Patterson – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 82m

***1/2

LGBQT romance. Fiercely intelligent, young woman living in Brighton with no prospects falls for a student teacher – out exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, February 5th

A young woman with a bruised lip soaks in the bath. Her landlord pounds on the door of the flat demanding rent. She gets out of the bath – in wet clothes, and answers, putting him off ’til another day.

Welcome to the world of Justine (Tallulah Haddon) – young, intelligent, in good health and damaged. She fills a plastic water bottle with vodka and swigs from it regularly. She hangs out and goes shoplifting with her best mate (Xavien Russell) who has his own problems – his mother has a new boyfriend who’s all over her and he can’t bear to be in the house. Regular meetings with her probation officer (Sian Reese-Williams) suggest a young woman closed in on herself, desperate for love and affection. No educational qualifications. No job. Lacking hope or ambition for anything. Except, perhaps, death or oblivion.

And yet, she loves to read. And one day browsing and lifting in a bookshop she spots a young woman.… 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 Music

Mogul Mowgli

Director – Bassam Tariq – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

****

A UK British Pakistani rap artist is stopped in his career tracks by an auto-immune system suppression illness – in cinemas from Friday, October 30th and on BFI Player Subscription Exclusive from Friday, February 5th

This opens with British Pakistani rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed, who also co-wrote the film) waiting in the wings then going on stage to perform before a massively enthusiastic New York crowd. I had fairly high expectations and my heart sank. Ahmed’s performance as the singer was leaving me absolutely cold. (To be fair, I’m not a huge fan of rap music.) Happily I was much more impressed with almost everything that followed.

This opening performance turns out to be the final leg of a tour. Zed has a major European Tour planned imminently. Back in Britain, he gets into a street fight with a fan/stalker and in the course of the resultant fight starts to experience severe stomach pains. He wakes up in the local hospital to learn that he’s suffering from an auto-immune system suppression illness and consequently will be unable to tour. He’s horrified by the the suggestion from his trusted manager Vaseem (Anjana Vasam) that his admirer and rival performer RPG (Nabhaan Rizwan), whom Zed despises, can cover for him on the European Tour.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

76 Days

Directors – Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous – 2020 – China, US – Cert. 12– 93m

***1/2

A US documentary edited out of footage shot on the Wuhan Covid-19 hospital frontline by two Chinese reporters allowed access – on VoD from Friday, January 22nd

Documentary film making is a curious medium – one might even say genre – and this is a curious piece of work. On the level subject matter, it hits paydirt. The city of Wuhan, China has a population of 11 million. When it went into lockdown on January 23rd, 2020 as the authorities attempted to curtail the spread of Covid-19, who knew a global pandemic was coming? Few if any in the West and perhaps no-one in China either.

Be that as it may, two journalists, Chen and one who has kept his / her name off from the film, started shooting what was happening in four hospitals in that city, a lockdown which continued for the eponymous 76 days until the local outbreak was considered safely under control. Given what happened later, interest in the footage they shot and the film subsequently made is now far greater than they may have initially imagined.

Documentary film maker Wu was appalled by China’s initial cover-up of what was happening in Wuhan and sought out journalists who’d had access to events and documented them on camera with a view to exchanging information and making a film himself about the pandemic situation in the US, a project eventually cancelled.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Roads Not Taken

Director – Sally Potter – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 85m

*****

A man drifts through separate existences and times while his daughter struggles to look after him in present day New York City – in cinemas from Friday, September 11th

This is something of a disorienting experience because it slips and shifts effortlessly between separate realities. Molly (Elle Fanning) is taking the day off work in New York to spend time with her dad Leo (Javier Bardem) who lives in a crummy apartment the front access door of which opens onto a busy main street. Her plan is to get him to appointments at the dentists and the opticians in the morning, then be in work for an important meeting in the afternoon. However, it doesn’t work out like that.

At the start, the phone rings and the buzzer goes repeatedly. Molly is in a taxi and his Leo’s maid Xenia (Branca Katic) is outside his front door. Eventually they’re inside, Molly having presumably forced their way in. “Everything is open”, he says to her as he lies, in a daze, in bed. “It’s not, actually, dad,” she replies. “The front door is closed.” She brings him the photo of his late and beloved dog Nestor from the mirror across the room.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Ava

Director – Sadaf Foroughi – 2017 – Iran – 102m

** 1/2

Available on VoD from Friday, August 21st

Ava (Mahour Jabbari) is a schoolgirl studying music – against the wishes of her parents, particularly her straight-laced and conservative mother Bahar (Bahar Noohian) who thinks music isn’t a real job and her daughter should consider a career that pays. Bahar is a hospital doctor and her husband Vahid (Vahid Aghapoor) is a freelance architect.

By way of a prank, Ava makes a bet with her friends and classmates Melody (Shayesteh Sajadi) and Shirin (Sarah Alimoradi) that she can get a date with Nima (Houman Hoursan) who is currently dating another classmate Yasi (Mona Ghiasi). Her mother hates the fact that Ava and Melody are best friends and spend a lot of time together, not least because Melody’s mum is a single parent.

Meanwhile, Bahar recounts a difficult hospital shift where a girl was found screaming wandering at night although she can’t bring herself to use words as explicit as “pregnancy” or “abortion”. This recent experience is in the back of her mind when she discovers one Saturday that Ava is not round at Melody’s but somewhere else. (Ava is spending time with Nima and misses the bus to get back.)… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Foreboding (Yocho, 予兆 散歩する侵略者)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2017 – Japan – 140m

*****

Loving the alien. Again. Japanese director reshapes his earlier Before We Vanish into an effective drama which plays out as an edge of the seat, sci-fi alien invasion thriller – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2018

This is not exactly a remake, not exactly a reboot, not exactly a sequel. Most definitely a companion piece, though, and arguably the more effective of the two movies. And apparently, an edit of the director’s five-part series for Japanese satellite station Wowow, although it feels like a (well over two hours long) standalone feature. Kiyoshi Kurosawa revisits Before We Vanish / Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (2017) for another story about the aliens clad in human bodies who steal concepts from people’s minds by touching a finger to a forehead E.T. (Steven Spielberg, 1982) style prior to a full scale invasion of Earth.

Where previously the director took the material and threw a cornucopia of different elements at it, this time round his efforts feel much more thought through and the resultant film far more consistent overall – a creepy and unsettling sci-fi paranoia thriller grounded in compelling, character-driven human drama.

Kurosawa builds his reinvented narrative round shop floor worker Etsuko (Kaho) whose friend Miyuki is going mad because of the strange presence in her home.… Read the rest