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Animation Features Movies

Akira (アキラ) 4K (IMAX)

Director – Katsuhiro Otomo – 1988 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 124m

*****

Manga artist turned director Katsuhiro Otomo’s cyberpunk classic returns to the big screen in a brand new 4K IMAX print – plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season in December and the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Waterloo IMAX #AKIRA4K

When Akira first appeared in the UK at the start of the nineties, Disney was busy reinventing the animated cartoon as a platform for the Broadway musical (Beauty And The Beast, Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 1991; The Lion King, Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers, 1994) and there were debates about whether comics (or ‘graphic novels’) could be created for adults as well as kids.

As so often in technology and media, Japan was ahead of the game. Otomo had published his long-running comic book or manga Akira in 1982 and turned it into a feature six years later, challenging widely held Western notions of what animation was. You could make SF in movies (Voyage To The Moon, Georges Méliès, 1902) and you could make serious SF (2001, Stanley Kubrick, 1968), but animation was strictly for kids, at least in the English-speaking mainstream, and that as what Disney did.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Onoda: 10, 000 Nights In The Jungle (Onoda, 10 000 Nuits Dans La Jungle)

Director – Arthur Harari – 2021 – France, Japan – Cert. 15 – 166m

*****

A Japanese soldier who believes his country has not yet surrendered stays on a Filipino island to fight on alone until 1973 – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday 16th May.

16th September 1973. A backpacking Japanese student (Ryu Morioka) on Lubang Island in the Philippines sets up his tent on the beach beside the jungle and switches on the cassette player playing a song from the 1940s. The sound drifts through the trees and can be faintly heard where an old soldier, his uniform patched by years of repair, is leaving a flower as an act of remembrance. He hears the music and moves towards it…

This frame story opens this tale and sets the stage for what is to follow. Back in Wakayama, Japan in December 1944, it’s all over for drunken youth Hiroo Onoda (Yuya Endo) whose hopes of becoming a pilot have been dashed by his fear of heights. To his aid comes Major Yoshimi Taniguchi (Issei Ogata), who explains the youth can serve his country in other ways and enrols him in the Nakano School Annex in Futumata, where the major teaches guerilla warfare.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Romantic self-doubt

Cyrano
Directed by Joe Wright
Certificate 12a, 124 minutes
Released 25 February

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac concerns a man who, because of his long nose, considers himself too ugly to tell the girl of his dreams and childhood friend Roxanne that he loves her. This new version ditches the nose to cast Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) as the hero whose dwarfism becomes his reason for thinking Roxanne (Haley Bennett) couldn’t possibly love him. Then she falls in love… with one of the men in the regiment he commands.

However… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Cyrano is nominated for Best Costume Design in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars.

Cyrano is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, February 25th.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Director – Joe Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

The short stature of Cyrano de Bergerac makes him believe that no woman could ever love him – not even his beloved friend Roxanne, who he can’t bring himself to tell – out in cinemas on Friday, February 25th

17th Century Italy. Witty and articulate Captain of the Guard Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is never at a loss for words. His rapier wit defeats any opponent, as does his rapier proper should any be foolish enough to challenge him to a duel. Being short in stature, he can’t imagine that any normal sized woman could love him for who he is.

He is therefore unable to confess his love for her to the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett), the woman and lifelong childhood friend for whom he would do anything. So when she falls in love at first sight with Christian (Bashir Salahuddin), a new recruit to Cyrano’s regiment, Cyrano finds himself torn between her rejection and his desire for her to be happy with the man she loves. Unfortunately, this intelligent and free-spirited young woman enjoys nothing more than the literary cut and thrust which Cyrano is able to provide but the inarticulate and out of his depth Christian is not.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Shape Of Water

Loving the alien

The Shape Of Water
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Certificate 15, 123 minutes
Released 14 February 2018

There’s a tradition in horror films and fairytales that the monster is bad. The Shape Of Water is a fairytale that features a monster (Doug Jones) who is viewed very differently by different characters. To the military security man, Strickland (Michael Shannon), it’s an affront to the image of God, in which man is created, which must be brutally subdued. To the scientist and Russian agent, Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), he’s an intelligent being from whom our species has much to learn and who should be kept alive at all costs and treated with respect – rather than killed and dissected as the authorities suggest. And to the mute cleaning lady, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who subsequently falls in love with him, he’s someone who responds to hard-boiled eggs and Benny Goodman records, and sees her for herself rather than for her so-called disability… [read more]

Read the full review in Reform, February 2018.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

The Card Counter

Director – Paul Schrader – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 112m

**1/2

Tormented by internal demons relating to his activities in Abu Ghraib, for which he’s served a prison sentence, a card player bides his time on the professional gambling circuit – out in cinemas on Friday, November 5th

I’m an enormous admirer of Paul Schrader as critic, screenwriter and director. I could go through the component parts of this film and extol the virtues of most of them. And yet, somehow, adding all these elements together the end result here is less than satisfying. I left the preview theatre in shock trying to understand what had gone wrong. Was it the film or was it me?

You could have guessed it was Schrader directing one of his own screenplays from the opening shots. In American Gigolo (1980), it’s various angles on the gigolo’s car. In First Reformed (2017) , it’s various angles on the pastor’s church building. Here, it’s various angles on the card counter’s cards spread out on the green beige surface of a playing table.

Self-styled William Tell (Oscar Isaac) is travelling round the US making money from card games having taught himself to read cards whilst in military prison (the USDB in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – it’s namechecked but not explained in the film and I had to look it up).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Occupation: Rainfall

Director – Luke Sparke – 2020 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 128m

*

Australian alien invasion epic with lots of seasoned actors and heaps of special effects. What could possibly go wrong? out in cinemas on Friday, July 9th

A sequel to Australian alien invasion outing Occupation (2018) by the same director, this big effects movie spends much time and effort on spectacular alien spaceships and dogfights, prosthetics alien costumes and the occasional creature that couldn’t possibly be portrayed by a human actor in a suit. These visual effects do the job but aren’t particularly engaging. The piece overall lacks original ideas and panache. 

The sketchy plot has the world (i.e. Australia) invaded by aliens called ‘Greys’ because of their skin colour while a military force under Wing Commander Hayes (Daniel Gillies from Spider Man 2, Sam Raimi, 2004) is fighting back. Hayes believes force is the only way to deal with the invaders and has consequently sidelined peace negotiator Amelia The Human (Jet Trantor from Thor: Ragnorok, Taika Waititi, 2017) who has made the effort to learn to speak the alien language. Greys unsympathetic to the invasion live amongst the humans. 

A wise elder named Abe (David Roberts from The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, Lana & Lilly Wachowski, 2003) despatches a two-man recon mission to find and discover the exact nature of the eponymous Project Rainfall.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Vast Of Night

Director – Andrew Patterson – 2019 – US – Cert. 12 – 91m

*****

A radio DJ and a young switchboard operator discover strange noises in the ether which may possibly be of great significance to the small US town where they live in the fifties – on Amazon Prime since Friday, May 29th 2020

Bookended with a curious and somewhat redundant framing device which sets up an episode of black & white, fifties TV show Paradox Theater called The Vast Of Night, to which the otherwise colour film periodically and pointless returns from time to time, this is an enigmatic little tale set in the small rural US town of Cayuga where the local high school is set to host a basketball team for a match.

Older teenager Everett (Jake Horowitz) is trying to sort out technical problems before the game gets under way: Sam reminds him that last time this happened, it was a squirrel that had chewed through a wire and the wire was still in its mouth. This story seems to crop up every few minutes as yet another character relates their own abridged telling of it. And 16 year old Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) wants him to show her how the tape recorder she’s just bought works.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Military Wives

Director – Peter Cattaneo– 2019 – UK – Cert.12A – 112m

**

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, July 6th.

Currently streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime and Curzon Home Cinema.

Twenty and a bit years after the hilarious British comedy The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997) in which a group of unemployed male steelworkers reinvent themselves as a striptease act, director Cattaneo tries something similar with a group of soldiers’ wives on a British army base at the time of the Afghanistan War who, in order to deal with their isolation from their active service husbands, reinvent themselves as a ladies choir.

Where the men in the earlier film underwent a crisis of identity when they lost their jobs, the women here are by default defined by their absent husbands, waiting for the text messages that inform them their men are out of satellite contact until further notice or, worse, the knock on the door bringing news of their loved one’s death.

I review Military Wives for DMovies.org.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, July 6th.

Currently streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime and Curzon Home Cinema.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Fortress (Nam Han San Seong, 남한산성)

Director – Hwang Dong-hyuk – 2017 – South Korea – 140m

**** 1/2

Korean period, winter war movie in which a besieged King, his court and his army decide whether to negotiate or fight as the enemy approaches – the opening film in the London East Asia Film Festival 2017

From its title you might assume that this big budget Korean offering was primarily a period war action epic more interested in spectacle and entertainment than anything else. In fact it’s an adaptation of contemporary writer Kim Hoon’s latest bestseller which explores a specific episode of history. The Fortress takes place in 1636, when King Injo of the Joseon Dynasty (Park Hae-il from The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006) was trapped in the mountain fortress of Namhan along with his ministers and court. It was winter and his army was suffering from exposure. To the South was the expansionist enemy Qing army advancing into territory hitherto under the protection of the Ming Empire.

At the start Kim Sang-hun (Kim Yun-seok), later revealed as Injo’s Minister of Rites, has a ferryman take him safely across the frozen river which is the route to Namhan. The old man bemoans his lack of payment for guiding others along the same route and wonders if the Qing will pay any better.… Read the rest