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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies
(and more)
2023

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2023, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add / sort.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/23 and 31/12/23.

This version includes re-releases, but those aren’t numbered. It’s hard to imagine movies improving on Powell and Pressburger’s i know where i’m going or The Red Shoes, Powell’s Peeping Tom or Von Trier’s Melancholia.

In addition to re-releases, this version also includes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2023.

The star ratings may occasionally differ from the star rating I gave a particular film at the time of review.

Beyond the first 25 numbered titles, there may be numerous errors (missing links to reviews where I wrote one, year of release, country, and maybe more). All this will be fixed in time, but I wanted to get something online in the holidays.

Finally, last year’s list is here.

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2023

Please click on titles to see reviews. (Links yet to be added.)… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Mrs.

Director – Arati Kadev – 2023 – India – Cert. none – 111m

****

After getting married, a woman is expected to work cheerfully from dawn to dusk, waiting on the menfolk of the house hand and foot – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

This is the Hindi remake of Malaysian film The Great Indian Kitchen (Jeo Baby, 2021).

It starts off cheerfully enough with a big song and dance routine with lots of percussion instruments in which the heroine Richa (Sanya Malhotra), who we later learn is a keen amateur choreographer, shows off various Bollywood dance moves in sync with her fellow dancers. You wouldn’t know it from the cleverly constructed trailer, but there are surprisingly few song and dance routines overall for a Bollywood production – the only two complete numbers take place right at the start and right at the end, with the film’s running length at just under two hours a lot shorter than your average, three hour, Bollywood epic which tends to interrupt the action for a song every five minutes. In that sense, the whole thing feels surprisingly Western.

In another sense, the first hour or so doesn’t feel Western at all.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Creation
Of The Gods
I:
Kingdom
Of Storms
(Feng Shen
Di Yi Bu:
Zhao Ge Feng Yun,
封神第一部
朝歌风云,
lit.
Investiture
Of The Gods
Part I:
Zhaoge Turmoil)

Director – Wuershan – 2023 – China – Cert. 15 – 148m

****

A king’s infatuation with a beautiful woman possessed by a vixen demon threatens to bring down a terrible curse upon his kingdom – first part of epic, period, mythological adventure trilogy is out in UK and Irish cinemas on Friday, September 22nd

This first trilogy instalment of an adaptation of the Xu Zhonglin-attributed novel Investiture Of The Gods, written towards the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), deals with the downfall of the Shang dynasty (which existed well before a thousand years BC). While the tale may well contain elements of historical truth, it also mixes in supernatural deities and creatures to cover an awful lot of ground in its two and a half hours’ running length.

The novel is known by a number of titles in Chinese, one of which is Fengshen Bang, an artefact of which name turns up in this film as a sort of MacGuffin, here a mystical scroll endowing its owner with great power which at least one major character seeks to possess, others seek to help him do so and immortals want to make sure it gets into the right (i.e. righteous or deserving) hands rather than his.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies
(and more,
excluding re-releases)
2022

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2022, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/22 and 31/12/22. Prior to 2020, I’d never included online releases (well, maybe the odd one or two as a special case) but that year saw the film distribution business turned upside down by COVID-19. The movie business is still changing, and the dust hasn’t yet settled.

This version excludes re-releases (Psycho, Paris, Texas and Pickpocket, not to mention the first six Bond movies, would top everything here). It has been an amazing year for re-releases including one or two incredible, old movies being released in the UK for the first time on Blu-ray. This is the year I get to rank all 25 Eon Bond movies, and why not? A link to that longer list will be added here in due course.

In addition to re-releases, this version also excludes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2022.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

All That Breathes

Director – Shaunak Sen – 2022 – India – Cert. – 97m

*

Set against the backdrop of heavily polluted Delhi, Muslim siblings devote their time to healing the local species of bird that seems to get injured more than most: the black kite – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player, out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 14th

Plunging the viewer right from the start into a rarely seen, night time netherworld, this contains incredible intermittent footage of life in a modern city, in this case Delhi. We are on a patch of waste ground, whether an officially designated rubbish tip or simply the place people check their waste is not clear, but the refuse is piling up and you can hear creatures scuffling around. The takes are long and soon you’re picking out rats in the darkness, and thinking that if only the rubbish was more securely contained, the rat infestation wouldn’t be a problem.

There are several similar lengthy shots that punctuate All That Breathes, and they’re absolutely mesmerising. This is in no small part due to the use of the unbroken take, coupled with complex camera moves which reminded me of last year’s pig documentary Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky, 2020).… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Hostile

Director – Sonita Gale – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 98m

**1/2

A documentary about the UK’s anti-immigrant Hostile Environment policy includes a brief history plus stories of both those it affected and a charity set up to help them – out in cinemas on Friday, January 21st, local screening details constantly being added here

The eponymous adjective refers to the UK’s attitude to immigrants since 2012: the so-called Hostile Environment. Make Britain an unpleasant enough place for immigrants, and they’ll leave.

Gale’s film has three main plot strands. The first follows the Sair family, from Pakistan, resident in the UK since 2003. The second follows the fortunes of the Community Response Kitchen, a non-profit organisation set up to feed low paid workers in the London Borough of Brent. The third is a brief history of anti-immigration rhetoric and policy in the UK. Further material includes interviews with Windrush generation Brit Anthony Bryan and MP Stephen Timms, among others.

The story of the Sairs makes for depressing viewing. In 2003, Farrukh Sair married Saba in Pakistan. Four months later, the couple moved to the UK on a student visa to do a course. Today, they have a family, kids who have spent their entire lives in the UK.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Reason I Jump

Director – Jerry Rothwell – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 82m

*****

The inner world of the autistic, explored through the writings and lives of autistic people and innovative cinematography and sound design – in cinemas from Friday, June 18th (Autistic Pride Day)

Originally this was a remarkable book in which autistic teenager Naoki Higashida communicated to the rest of the world in prose what it’s like to be autistic. It had already been widely read in Japan when author David Mitchell and his wife Keiko Yoshida, whose son is autistic, were so taken with it that they undertook an English translation. International acclaim followed. For Mitchell, the book provided the opportunity to understand his son’s interior world like nothing before it.

A film is a very different media from a book. That begs the question, if you wanted to make the book into a film, how would you go about it? Seasoned documentary filmmaker Jerry Rothwell (Deep Water, co-directed with Louise Osmond, 2006; How To Change The World, 2015) had some innovative ideas. One was to use Higashida’s writings as a through line for the film, augmenting it with the experiences of several other autistic people.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Battle
In Outer Space
(Uchu Daisenso,
宇宙大戦争,
lit. The Great Space War)

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1959 – Japan – Cert. U – 90m

Battle In Outer Space is one of those films that paints on a bigger canvas and sacrifices character development in favour of big-screen visual spectacle, brought to life with state-of-the-art special effects. According to Kalat, the film owes much to the bigger Hollywood 1950s SF feature film films made in colour. These include not only films by former Puppetoon animation creator George Pal such as The War Of The Worlds (1953) and Conquest Of Space (1955) but also This Island Earth (1955) and Forbidden Planet (1956).

Honda’s film wades straight in to alien war scenarios… [read more]

Over at All The Anime, I review Eureka!’s Ishiro Honda Blu-ray double bill of The H Man and Battle In Outer Space.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Ishiro Honda
Double Feature
The H Man
(Bijo
To Ekitai-ningen,
美女と液体人間)
and
Battle
In Outer Space
(Uchu Daisenso,
宇宙大戦争)

The H Man

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1958 – Japan – Cert. X – 86m

Battle in Outer Space

*****

Director – Ishiro Honda – 1959 – Japan – Cert. U – 90m

Alongside the standalone release of Mothra (1961) comes a double bill of two more Toho science fiction movies directed by Ishiro Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya: , The H Man (1958) and Battle In Outer Space (1959). The Toho studio is associated more with monster movies than any other genre, notably Godzilla (1954) and Mothra. The superior entries in this cycle tend to be the ones they directed, including the initial 1954 film which ticked all the right boxes to prove a massive success.

When no-one at Toho was quite sure what had made Godzilla work, the pair collaborated on a number of different SF films before everything came together on Mothra. The H Man is a monster film dressed up in gangster trappings while Battle in Outer Space is an epic with space stations, flying saucers, rocket ships, an alien moon base and alien mind control… [read more]

Over at All The Anime, I review Eureka!’s Ishiro Honda double bill Blu-ray.