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Features Live Action Movies

Cruella

Director – Craig Gillespie – 2020 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 134m

****

A 101 Dalmatians prequel. How a girl named Estella unleashed her darker personality of Cruella de Vil – in cinemas from Friday, May 28th

Disney’s project of mining their pantheon of animated classics for live action feature material continues. Here it’s the turn of Cruella de Vil, the villain from 101 Dalmatians (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman, 1961), and a very clever reimagination it is too. It commences with her birth and cleverly conceals certain significant details of her upbringing only to reveal them at the tale’s climax and give everything that went before a completely new spin.

Estella (Tipper Siefert-Cleveland) is the daughter of Catherine (Emily Beecham). Befriended at school by Anita Darling (Florisa Kamara) but picked on by bullies, Estella gives as good as she gets, fights back and gets expelled for figuratively blotting her copybook. 

So her mother pays a visit to former employer the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) seeking help. But thanks to Estella’s refusal to do as she’s told and stay in the car and her dog Buddy’s strikingly similar refusal to obey Estella this plan goes fatally wrong.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes

Director – Caroline Catz – 2020 – UK – 98m

*****

Docudrama explores the ten years the legendary electronic musician spent at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – on BBC iPlayer from Sunday, May 16th for a year

Part documentary, part drama and part performance art, this is a fascinating examination of Delia Derbyshire, the woman who between 1962 and 1973 worked in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The film does examine her life and career before and after that, but only briefly. After studying mathematics and music at Cambridge, she became interested in music as an expression of mathematics and, as such, knew that the Radiophonic Workshop was the place she wanted to be.

We see Delia (writer-director Caroline Katz) interviewed for a job at Decca Records only to be told that women don’t work in the technical department but there are openings for secretaries. It’s easy to see that as sexism now, but at that time such attitudes were commonplace. She wonders if her interviewer was the person who turned down the Beatles. We see interviewed Dutch video artist Madelon Hoodykas with whom she collaborated in The Netherlands after her BBC period and there’s some brief footage of the LYC museum set up by Li Yuan-chia near Hadrian’s Wall where she spent some time after a disastrous marriage to a man with whom she had little in common with beyond drinking.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Movies Music

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché

Punk biopic

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché
Directed by Celeste Bell and Paul Sng
Certificate 12a, 96 minutes
Released 5 March at www.modernfilms.com
Viewers can select a participating local cinema to share the revenue of the virtual box office

This documentary about the late Poly Styrene (real name Marion Elliot), the iconic front woman of the 1970s punk band X-Ray Spex, paints a compelling picture of a creative and innovative young woman going against the grain to break new ground in pop music. The band was very much her baby which she put together by advertising for musicians in the music press. She wrote all their material.

Her literal baby is the film’s co-director and co-writer Celeste Bell, who as a young child escaped from her well-intentioned but unfit mother during their time living on the Hare Krishna estate in Hertfordshire. On her mum’s death, Celeste found herself the guardian of Poly’s vast archive. It was five years before she could bring herself to look inside and see what was there… Read more

Full review in Reform magazine.

Trailer:

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Daughter Of Shanghai

Directors – Michelle Chen Miao, Hilla Medalia – 2019 – China – Cert. N/C 15+ – 90m

****1/2

A chronicle of the life and on-off career of Chinese-born, RADA-trained actress and screen legend Tsai Chin – available to rent online until Wednesday, May 12th in the UK & Ireland in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 as part of the Approaching Reality documentary strand

“I was born in a trunk when my parents were on tour in Tianjin.” The daughter of legendary Peking Opera star Zhou Xinfang, Tsai Chin came to London towards the end of her  seventeenth year when she was the first Chinese person to be accepted at RADA where she found herself alongside the likes of high-born, Welsh socialite Elizabeth Rees-Williams who in footage alongside her now husband Jonathan Aitken is one of the main interview subjects here. As well as a recent interview with Tsai Chin herself, the other main interviewee is the late lawyer Carlo Colombotti, a personal friend and a wealthy lawyer who moved in the same London circles in the sixties.

Her story, although it contains specific international and cross-cultural reference points, is, basically, an actor’s life: early success on stage and screen through the fifties and sixties, followed by a period in the seventies and eighties in relative obscurity and a later period when her rediscovery by Hollywood in the nineties restarted her career.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Vanguard

Director – Stanley Tong – 2020 – China – Cert. tbc – 107m

**

Jackie Chan actioner trades on his former glory from decades ago but relies too much on CG trickery and fails to ignite the screen – on VoD from Friday, January 8th

Vanguard is an organisation which… well, it’s never clear exactly what it does, but Jackie Chan is fairly high up in it and it has a lot of field operatives and high tech equipment, surveillance, weaponry and similar. This film moves around various high profile international locations – including London, the African bush and Dubai. When a man is kidnapped by criminals who want to access his vast wealth for their own nefarious ends, it’s up to Vanguard to rescue him.

One could be charitable and say that no-one goes to a Jackie Chan movie for the script, but the script here is so sketchy as to be almost non-existent. It plays out rather as a series of set pieces, and I’d love to be able to tell you that these are incredible – in some Jackie Chan movies that’s true – but sadly, in this one, for the most part, they really aren’t.

Chan in his heyday picked up the baton passed on by some of the great stunt / gag players of Hollywood’s silent era (Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd), combined what they were doing with Chinese martial arts and appeared in some truly spectacular films such As the Project A and Police Story films.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

23 Walks

Director – Paul Morrison – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 102m

****1/2

A man over sixty meets a woman of around the same age over 23 walks with their respective dogs – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

Walk 1. Dave (Dave Johns) is out walking his Alsatian Tilly (Sheila) in a narrow, muddy alleyway one day when he runs into Fern (Alison Steadman) walking her terrier Henry (Dennis). Not that either they or we know their names at this stage – he is the bloke with the big dog without a lead that she has to get past, and she’s not impressed. He should have a lead, she says. He’s deeply apologetic.

Walk 2. He now has a lead and apologises for the previous day. They walk, they talk. Thus begin the eponymous 23 walks, with interruptions after a while mostly on Dave’s side of the story but a few on hers too. Both are in difficult relationship situations – his wife is catatonic and residing in a care home, the cost of which is putting him behind on the rent of his long-standing council home, her husband has run off with a younger model, his secretary. When we finally, briefly meet her husband, he appears cruel and uncaring in his treatment of his ex.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Hurt By Paradise

Director – Greta Bellamacina – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12a – 85m

***1/2

A single parent mum poet and her upstairs lodger actress pursue their dreams in London’s Fitzrovia and Margate – in cinemas from Friday, September 18th

A strangely likeable, meandering little movie, this concerns single mum Celeste Blackwood (director and co-writer Greta Bellamacina) who writes poetry from her flat in London’s Fitzroy Square, in the immediate shadow of the BT Tower. Her out of work actress upstairs lodger Stella Mansell (co-writer Sadie Brown) helps out with the childcare.

Celeste’s father left when she was five and she hasn’t seen him since. However, she has a plan to go through al Blackwoods in the telephone directory until she finds him. Stella, meanwhile, is approaching a year of chatting nightly over the internet to a man she’s never met. But, as Stella says, you can tell so much about someone from their writing.

Throughout the film, which feels heavily improvised and consists mostly of scenes with both of one of other of the women in situations with Celeste’s little boy and / or other people, like a short series of sketches. Early on, Celeste visits a publisher (Nicholas Rowe) with her poetry manuscript only to be told that poets never make any money unless they meet death in a particularly nasty way, at which point their sales go through the roof.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

White Riot

Director – Rubika Shah – 2019 – UK – Cert. 15 – 80m

***1/2

Documentary charts the rise of the UK’s Rock Against Racism movement of the late 1970s and features among others The Clash, Steel Pulse and Tom Robinson – in cinemas and on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th

Curiously prescient for our own time, the late nineteen seventies saw the rise of the far right movement in Britain characterised by the National Front and its desire to send all non-white British residents “back where they came from”. One of the other things that happened at that time in the UK was in the seemingly unrelated area of music: punk rock. Something clicked for photographer Red Saunders when the NME dispatched him to shoot Punk Night at London’s ICA venue. He saw an immediacy and an energy to what was going on, with bands the The Clash singing about social issues such as unemployment.

Fuelled by some ill-advised, vaguely Teutonic sentiments from David Bowie and, more specifically, a gig where guitarist Eric Clapton encouraged people to go and vote for racist MP Enoch Powell and everything he represented, Saunders set up the Rock Against Racism (RAR) movement to bring together youth from the UK’s various different ethnic backgrounds.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Rocks

Director – Sarah Gavron – 2019 – UK – Cert. 12 – 93m

****

A 15-year-old, East End London schoolgirl must look after her seven-year-old brother when their mother abandons themin cinemas from Friday, September 18th

From its opening, in which a bunch of ethnically diverse, 15-year-old girls from Hackney in London’s East End clown around together, lean on a balcony and film each other on a mobile phone, it’s clear that this is something very different. It’s been made with a young, mostly female cast many of whom have little or no acting experience via intensive workshopping and improvisation. Thrown into this mix somewhere along the process a highly personal script outline has emerged from Theresa Ikoko, one of two writers involved in the lengthy development process, which seems a perfect fit for the young cast.

Although the story source was Ikoko, I’m guessing that the input of co-writer Claire Wilson is just as significant. And while I believe you can never underestimate the importance of a good script which lays the foundations of a production, in this particular instance many other collaborators both behind and in front of the cameras have also contributed a great deal, with director Gavron and her producers holding it all together.… Read the rest

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Exhibitions Music

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK.

13 May – 1 October 2017.

*****

On my Must See list for a while: finally managed a visit last week. Thoroughly enjoyed as someone who grew up when everyone but everyone owned a copy of Dark Side Of The Moon and subsequently discovered the whole back catalogue only to lose interest some time after The Wall (which I saw them play live at Earl’s Court) as the whole thing shifted toward a Roger Waters ego trip. Was busy listening to other things by the time Waters had been booted out and guitarist David Gilmour pulled them back on track (though managed to pick up live recording Pulse on CD and LD in the nineties when I was reviewing laserdiscs) but have since picked up the complete works, album by album, on CD. So, a casual fan but not a die-hard.

The exhibition is a mixed bag. Unlike the V&A’s earlier popular music exhibition David Bowie is, there aren’t lengthy dire periods to be avoided and amazing periods to celebrate, but there ARE chunks of Floyd career where there isn’t much surviving material on which to build an exhibition. Thus an early room covers the first eight albums in scant detail – including such highs as Atom Heart Mother and Meddle – so you feel the whole thing is going to be a disappointment.… Read the rest