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One Cut Of The Dead In Hollywood (Kamera Wo Tomeruna!, supin-ofu: Hariuddo daisakusen, カメラを止めるな!スピンオフ ハリウッド大作戦)

Director – Yuya Nakaizumi – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 57m

The first 16 minutes **1/2; the rest ***1/2

A zombie film being shot in one long, single take and set in a restaurant in Hollywood is attacked by zombies… or is it? – out as an extra on a One Cut Of The Dead Hollywood Edition Blu-ray on Monday, May 31st

Spoiler alert. The film is basically a copy of the first film, slightly tweaked but not really adding anything much to it. Similarly, this review is basically a copy of the review of the first film.

With a title that translates literally as “Don’t Stop The Camera! Spin-off: a great strategy for Hollywood!”, this is another loving homage to both the movie shot in one take and to the zombie movie. Or so it appears for its first 16 minutes, after which it turns into a comic drama about film making.

Let’s start where the film does, with its first 16 minutes. “6 Months after the tragedy, Chinatsu is a waitress in Hollywood. Struck dumb, she died her hair blond (sic) and renamed herself Holly.” Thus reads the opening title as waitress Holly / Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) ignores customer comments about her inability to speak.… Read the rest

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One Cut Of The Dead (Kamera Wo Tomeruna!, カメラを止めるな!)

Director – Shinichiro Ueda – 2017 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 96m

The first 37 minutes *****; the rest ***1/2

A zombie film being shot in one long, single take and set in an abandoned warehouse is attacked by zombies… or is it? – on a Hollywood Edition Blu-ray on Monday, May 31st

With a title that translates literally as “Don’t Stop The Camera!”, this is a loving homage to both the movie shot in one take and the zombie movie. Or so it appears for its first 37 minutes, after which it turns into a comic drama about film making.

Let’s start where the film does, with its first 37 minutes. Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) is defending herself with an axe from her boyfriend Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) who has turned into a zombie. However, like the girl facing a knife-wielding maniac at the start of Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981) the actress playing her is not very good and the illusion of the film collapses much as the illusion of Blow Out does when the actress delivers the most pathetic scream you’ve ever heard.

As the film delivers its first revelation – that this is not a woman defending herself against a zombie but the shooting of a movie scene of an actress portraying a woman defending herself against an actor playing a zombie – director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) storms into the scene to berate her for her shortcomings.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain (Shu Shan – Xin Shu shan jian ke, 新蜀山劍俠)

Director – Tsui Hark – 1983 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 98m

*****

One of the greatest special effects action movies ever made, this groundbreaking epic delivers non-stop, near unbelievable, visually entrancing vistas of Chinese mythology – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th and available on Blu-ray

There are films which seem almost single-handedly to define cultures. There are plenty of elements in Zu Warriors From The Magic Mountain that can be found elsewhere in Hong Kong cinema – martial arts stunts, flying wire work, period costumes, stock figures, airborne drapery – and yet the precise way this mixes these elements up then adds in others and adds in lots of 2D effects animation makes it a unique work, even by Tsui’s extraordinary standards.

With the ancient world in which he lives in a state of chaos due to constantly warring human factions, a man gets swiftly out of his depth when he sidesteps all that to follow a hero in the hope of becoming his disciple as the hero battles the forces of evil. If this sounds very highbrow… well, perhaps it is. Or perhaps it’s just an excuse to put together a series of truly extraordinary special effects action set-pieces that transport the viewer to mythological otherworlds the exact like of which have never been seen onscreen before or since.… Read the rest

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Stardust

Director – Gabriel Range – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 109m

****

In 1971, an unknown David Bowie tours America to promote his new album The Man Who Sold The World – on VoD from Friday, January 15th

The late David Bowie remains one of the most significant and iconic musicians, artists or stars of the last century. Aside from numerous clips of him performing music or being interviewed of radio or TV, he has a presence in a number of films, among them science fiction adventure The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicholas Roeg, 1976) and Japanese POW outing Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Oshima, 1983). So if you’re going to try and recreate Bowie on film, you’d better be sure of what you’re doing.

On paper, Stardust seems to be doing everything right. Director Range is first and foremost a Bowie admirer familiar with the music, the albums, the wider body of work, the man. You’d have to be in order to make a film like this. And he’s honed in on a particular episode of Bowie’s life – a very interesting one too, the period in the early seventies when he was known for little more than two seeming novelty records, The Laughing Gnome and Space Oddity, the latter now widely regarded as one of his finest songs.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1961 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. U – 85m

*****

Available on Blu-ray/DVD and now on BFI Player too.

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2017 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.

Using not only live action but also every form of animation you can imagine, the 1961 Czech fantasy The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (BD/DVD, cert U, 85 mins) puts the infamous teller of tall tales in the company of a rational astronaut he meets on the moon for a series of improbable adventures. It’s a charming and delightful piece of escapism and a visual marvel from start to finish.

Director Karel Zeman has probably come closer than anyone to filming the equivalent of a moving woodcut and the whole thing is highly inventive throughout, challenging the very idea of what a film might look and feel like. Children and adults alike will be entranced. For good measure, the disc includes a documentary in which students try to recreate some of the film’s spectacular special effects.

Trailer here:

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2017 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.

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The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 201m (263m)

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, August 10th 2020, 263m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 252m version released on DVD 2004.)

This review of the 201m theatrical version was originally published in Third Way.

A much shorter review appeared in What’s On In London.

A pre-screening article on The Lord Of The Rings appeared in Sussed in 2001.

Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings is a labour of love by a brilliant academic obsessed by myth and language better at creating an alternate world than at story construction. Nowhere in the trilogy is this more evident than in The Return Of The King. Frodo’s trip to Mount Doom to unmake Sauron’s One Ring builds up incredibly to a climactic pivotal event running little more than a paragraph. This is followed by another hundred pages or so tying up loose ends, including a sequence in which evil wizard Saruman turns the Shire into a post-industrial dictatorship that’s trivial compared with the geographic enormity of what has gone before.

Jackson and co-writers wisely omit that sequence; indeed, in its last weeks of post-production his The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King has chopped its scenes of Saruman (Christopher Lee) at Isengard – on the grounds that it slowed down the start.… Read the rest

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The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition)

Director – Peter Jackson – 2003 (2002) – New Zealand – Cert. 12a – 225m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, July 27th 2020, 235m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 225m version released on DVD 2004. Original theatrical cut: 199m)

This always had the problem that it’s the second film in a trilogy. If you think you might want to watch all three, you’ll watch the first movie. If you want to see how the story ends up, you might possibly jump straight in at the last movie (although to be honest, you’d be better watching the first movie The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring and then if you like it the other two as well.)

That said, both this second movie The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers and the third film The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King deal with the problem of opening the film admirably, in both cases doing so in creative ways. This one leaps back to Gandalf being dragged down a chasm by a Balrog in FOTR and then, once we think we’re getting closer to finding out what happened, has Frodo waken from a dream.… Read the rest

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The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Edition)

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Extended Edition)

Director – Peter Jackson – 2002 (2001) – New Zealand – Cert. PG – 229m

*****

(NB Extended Edition, in cinemas from Monday, July 24th 2020, 227m in cinemas due to extended frame rate = 218m version released on DVD 2004. Original theatrical cut: 178m)

It’s a very different thing writing about a new movie which you’re watching for the first time and an old movie with which you’re familiar. Even stranger when the movie concerned is an adaptation of a book with which you’re equally familiar. Odder still when the property exists in its original form (which was actually a side project of something else, Professor J.R.R.Tolkien’s Middle-earth project) but also in a highly regarded 13 x 1 hour BBC radio adaptation skilfully adapted by Brian Sibley.

Although it’s Tolkien’s material, for me it’s as if The Lord Of The Rings existed somewhere out there and Tolkien wrote it down in book form (Where does artistic creativity come from? Discuss) after which Sibley successfully wrote it down in radio drama form and Jackson and his two screenwriting collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens turned it into a movie trilogy.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Invention For Destruction (Vynález Zkázy)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1958 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. U – 82m

*****

Blu-ray/DVD available from Second Run.

Review originally written as an entry for

the Aurum Film Encyclopedia: War (series editor: Phil Hardy).

Sadly, the book was never published.

Vynález Zkázy

aka

Invention For Destruction,

The Invention Of Destruction,

The Deadly Invention,

The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961, US version)

KRATKY FILM PRAHA | STUDIO LOUTKOVYCH FILMU GOTTWALDOV

Feature length trickfilm adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel Une Invention Diabolique is less about war itself than its causes – specifically scientists who work without regard for how their experimental research will be used by others. Professor Roche (Navrátil) is kidnapped from a sanitarium and taken by clipper (towed by a prototype submarine invisible from the surface) to the island of Back-Cup where mysterious captor Count Artigas (Holub) invites him to continue his research – a task the childlike scientist is happy to undertake. The professor’s travelling companion, research assistant and the film’s narrator Simon Hart (Tokos) wants by contrast to escape and warn the world of Artigan’s plans to attack using a giant gun.

Zeman shoots his film with an all-encompassing diversity of live action and animated techniques, mixing actors, natural history photography and studio sets (augmented by drawings of set sections matted into his locked-off frame) on the one hand with live action and stop-frame puppetry, animated models, drawings and any other method you care to name.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Journey To The Beginning Of Time (Cesta Do Pravěku)

Director – Karel Zeman – 1955 – Czechoslovakia – Cert. PG – 86m

*****

Blu-ray/DVD available from Second Run.

I’ve written about the pioneering Czech director Karel Zeman in these pages before regarding his 1961 film The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (BD/DVD, cert U, 85 mins). The latest of his works to see a release in a beautifully restored version is 1955’s Journey To The Beginning Of Time (BD/DVD, cert PG, 86 mins) in which four young boys go back in time to find a trilobite and see numerous other prehistoric beasts on the way, realised by an astonishing array of animation and special effects techniques.

The film flows very naturally and has a commendable awe of the created world. The subtitled Czech version is the one to watch first. The disc also includes the surprisingly effective US dubbed version with its different opening sequence at the American Museum Of Natural History and a different closing sequence with stock footage of volcanoes and a gratuitous voice-over about the Genesis creation myth.

Trailer here:

This capsule review originally appeared in Reform in 2019 as part of a wider Watch And Talk review roundup.