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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

Holy Spider (Ankabut-e Moqaddas, عنکبوت مقدس)

Director – Ali Abassi – 2022 – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

An Iranian lady crime journalist poses as a prostitute in an attempt to uncover the identity of a serial killer justifying his killing spree in the name of Islam – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th

2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Leaving her small daughter at home, a woman goes out into the night. She changes into high heels in a lavatory then goes onto the streets to ply her trade as a prostitute. She tells a streetcrawler to “fuck off”. In any encounter with male sexuality, violence is never far away; in a frenzied coupling in an apartment littered with the awards of a successful entrepreneur, a client tells her, “I’m going to tear your pussy apart.”

Another man refuses to pay more than half for a blow job when police are seen near the car in which she’s performing the service, preventing him from climaxing. A further man asks her onto his bike, but later in the stairwell to his apartment she thinks she may have made a mistake and tries to excuse herself.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Holy Spider

In God’s name

Holy Spider
Directed by Ali Abassi
Certificate 18, 116 minutes
Released 20 January (UK cinemas), 10 March (MUBI)

The year 2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Prostitutes are being targeted by a killer who is justifying his crimes with Islamic rhetoric. With the notable exception of her editor Sahrifi (Arash Ashtiani), the journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) investigating the case encounters sexism wherever she goes, and it’s hard not to draw parallels between these everyday attitudes of men towards most women and the atrocities being inflicted on a small number of them on the social margins.

A number of the killings are shown, in unpleasant detail, and are difficult to watch. (This film is an 18 for a reason.) [Read the full review at Reform magazine…]

[Read my longer review on this site…]

Holy Spider is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th.

Trailer:

Categories
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

Decision To Leave (Heojil Kyolshim, 헤어질 결심)

Director – Park Chan-wook – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 138m

*****

A married detective investigating the death of a climber becomes obsessed with the victim’s wife, who looks increasingly like the murderer – on MUBI from Friday, 9th December

Any sexual or romantic energy that once existed between city-based detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il from Heaven: To The Land Of Happiness, Im Sang-soo, 2021, The Fortress, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2017, The Host, 2006, Memories Of Murder, 2003, both Bong Joon ho) and seaside town-based wife (Jung Yi-seo, bit parts in Samjin Company English Class, Lee Jong-pil, 2020; Parasite, Bong Joon ho, 2019) has long since evaporated.

Investigating the fatal fall of skilled amateur climber Ki Do-soo (Yoo Seung-mok from The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, Lee Won-Tae, 2019, also The Host, Memories Of Murder) where the man’s Chinese-born wife Seo-rye (Tang Wei, from Lust, Caution, Ang Lee, 2007) is a murder suspect, he falls for her…
[Read the full review at Dmovies.org]

Trailer:

Decision To Leave is on MUBI from Friday, 9th December.

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Doctor Who Am I

Director – Matthew Jacobs, Vanessa Yuille – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 80m

****

Screenwriter Jacobs’ entry into US Dr. Who fan subculture follows his scripting of the 1996 Dr. Who TV movie that was supposed to launch the franchise Stateside but floppedout in UK cinemas on Thursday, October 27th and Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download Monday, November 28th

What the hilarious narrative feature Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999) did for Star Trek, this heartfelt yet hugely entertaining documentary does for Dr. Who. Matthew Jacobs, whose work includes the screenplay for Paperhouse (Bernard Rose, 1988) and the original story for offbeat Disney cartoon The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000), also wrote the script for the US network TV movie Doctor Who (1996) which was supposed to relaunch the BBC franchise in the US, a goal it spectacularly missed when no series proved forthcoming.

In retrospect, Jacobs considers that his script made two major errors in terms of the Doctor Who legacy. One, it recast the hitherto entirely alien Time Lord as half-human, and, two, it allowed him to kiss a member of the opposite sex, something no previous version of the doctor had ever been seen to do.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

A Bunch Of Amateurs

Director – Kim Hopkins – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 95m

***

The Bradford Movie Makers amateur filmmaking club struggles to survive in the modern world – out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 11th

Founded in 1932, the Bradford Movie Makers is a club for lovers of movies to make their own films. Such amateur groups were once common in parts of Britain, but now they’re dying out. As one BMM member comments, Leeds and Wakefield are gone. The BMM may be next: its accounts are in a bad shape, with various utility bills unpaid and several years’ worth of rent owing to a seemingly sympathetic landlord. The decrepit garage space at the side of the building needs clearing. It’s currently used as a local dumping ground for rubbish. And many of the members themselves are getting on in years; in the course of the two or three years covered by this documentary, some of the members’ spouses will die.

But this is Yorkshire, and life goes on. Retired carpenter Colin climbs the steps of his uphill garden to perch precariously by his fence to plant daffodil bulbs. Eventually at the club, his herculean feat of climbing the narrow stairs to the screening room is augmented by the installation of a stairlift.… 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

Emergency Declaration (Bisang Seoneon, 비상선언)

Director – Han Jae-rim – 2021 – South Korea – 147m

*****

A rogue biochemist smuggles a deadly virus onto a commerical flight and releases it, leaving those on board fighting for survival– from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

At the same time as his wife has had enough and decides to fly off to Hawaii on her own for a break, Police Sgt. Koo (Song Kang-ho from Parasite, 1019; Snowpiercer, 2013; Memories Of Murder, 2003; all Bong Joon ho) finds himself investigating an upload to the internet which is probably a hoax in which a man threatens a terrorist attack on a plane. He tracks this man to his apartment from which the open door emits the smell of putrefaction. A search of the premises reveals a corpse sealed in polythene who has died of burst blood vessels caused by a virus.

Meanwhile at Incheon Airport, the man, Ryu Jin-seok (Yim Si-wan, singer of huge K-pop band KZ-A) has a run in with a booking agent who won’t tell him what the busiest route is, insulting her. Next, he enters the toilets to open and insert a phal into his armpit but is spotted from a cubicle by young girl Soo-min (Kim Bo-min) using the wrong toilets.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Housemaid (Hanyo, 하녀) (2010)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2010 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

****

The husband of a well-heeled family has an affair with the new maid, arousing the ire of his loyal housekeeper and ruthless mother – screening on Saturday, October 22nd, 17.15 at Odeon Luxe West End 2 as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; the film is also showing on BFI Player subscription

It’s inevitable that a South Korean film with this title invites comparisons with Kim Ki-young’s 1960 film of the same name, a watershed in Korean cinema. Whatever its virtues, Im Sang-Soo’s film can’t similarly be a watershed. If it’s based on that film as its end credits claim, it abandons the original’s central thesis. The housemaid here is not a social climber intent on seducing the husband. Rather, the family are part of the pampered super-rich elite, a small girl Nami (Ahn Seo-hyun, star of Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017) who takes having a maid for granted, a heavily pregnant wife Hae-ra (Woo Seo) who thinks the difficulties of having to raise children yourself are “for common people” and a husband Hoon Go (Lee Jung-jae from TV mini-series Squid Game, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021) who, unable to get full sexual services from his pregnant wife, seeks his pleasures with the new maid Li Eun-yi (Jeon Do-youn) who appears, initially at least, somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but then goes with the flow.… Read the rest