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Crimes Of The Future (2022)

Director – David Cronenberg – 2022 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 107m

*****

Even as two performance artists enact bizarre public rituals exploring the unlikely boundaries between sex, surgery and mutation, a young boy who eats plastic is murdered by his mother – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Back in 1970, underground filmmaker Cronenberg made a film called Crimes Of The Future, inspired by the title of an unseen poem in an art film he’d seen several years earlier. That 1970 film, consisting of a cast on a campus of modernist architecture shot in colour without sync sound and deploying a monologue voice-over alternating with blocks of weird, improvised sound effects, bears little relation to this new one, except that it likewise briefly and peripherally features a dancer. More significantly, it also features a character whose body produces new organs. We don’t see them in that film, we merely hear a verbal description.

Fast-forward to the present and Cronenberg has had a career from the late 1970s through the 1990s making cinema features packed with icky special effects about something called The New Flesh followed by a series of (arguably) more mainstream, arthouse movies. To those who know the whole body of work, they’re all of a piece; however, to the newcomer they can be overwhelming or potentially offensive.… Read the rest

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Eastern Promises

Director – David Cronenberg – 2007 – Canada, UK – Cert. 18 – 100m

****

After a London midwife delivers a dying woman’s baby she finds herself attracting the attention of the Russian mafia – reviewed in Third Way, 2007; on BBC iPlayer until Thursday, October 6th 2022

An immediately recognisable, ethnically diverse London unseen in previous movies about the capital. A Chechen unexpectedly gets his throat cut in a barber’s shop; a pregnant Russian teenager walks into a chemist’s, asks for help and collapses in a pool of her own blood. Given the director, you’d be forgiven for expecting such imagery to pervade the whole film, but Eastern Promises originated not with Cronenberg but screenwriter Steven Knight, whose acclaimed screenplay for Dirty Pretty Things (Stephen Frears, 2002) explored the hidden, ethnic workforce in the underbelly of contemporary, multicultural London. (He also wrote the recent Wilberforce biopic Amazing Grace, Michael Apted, 2006).

Eastern Promises takes us into related territory, again in the capital – this time Russian Vory V Zakone gangsters, sex trafficking and murder. Cronenberg puts this on the screen with all the precision and finesse one would expect, eliciting terrific performances and contributions from cast and crew.

Trafalgar hospital midwife Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts), the daughter of a Russian father and an English mother, provides our point of entry into this unfamiliar world as the midwife who must deliver the baby from the dying teenager.… Read the rest

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See How They Run

Director – Tom George – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 98m

**

A barely competent Inspector and a trainee WPC investigate a backstage murder at The Mousetrap in 1950s London’s theatreland – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

London West End, 1953. Following his involvement in a fight at a party to celebrate the hundredth performance of The Mousetrap at The Ambassadors Theatre, blacklisted Hollywood film director Leo Kopernick (Adrien Brody), hired by John Woolf (Reece Shearsmith) to make a film of the play, gets into fisticuffs with the play’s leading man Richard “Dickie” Attenborough (Harris Dickinson) over the latter’s wife and co-star Sheila Sim (Pearl Shanda).

Later, Kopernick is murdered backstage by a mystery assailant. Perhaps it’s pertinent that Kopernick has ruffled numerous feathers in and around the production, not least foppish, English literary figure Mervyn Cocker Norris (David Oyelowo) who has been hired to write the script and despises everything Kopernick stands for, a feeling which proves in flashback to be mutual.

Thus begins a whodunit based around the world’s longest running play. The police are called in, with Commissioner Harold Scott (Tim Key) assigning alcoholic Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) and film buff and over-enthusiastic trainee WPC Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) to the case.… Read the rest

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Free Chol Soo Lee

Directors – Julia Ha, Eugene Yi – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 83m

****

Imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, Korean American Chol Soo Lee became a figurehead for a protest movement, something he felt unable to live up to – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 19th

In San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1973, Korean loner Chol Soo Lee was arrested and subsequently convicted for a gang murder. While it’s true he had foolishly borrowed a gun off a work colleague a few days previously and accidentally discharged it into his apartment wall giving himself a police record, he was not the murderer. He was identified on the flimsiest of premises by unreliable witnesses, possibly not helped by white cops who wanted to convict a felon for the crime and consign the case to history.

On what was to be his last journey through the outside world before many years in prison, he heard the Tower of Power song “You’re still a young man” on a car radio crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It resonated. As the years passed in prison, his mother abandoned him. He had fallen for a Japanese American girl he’d met Jean Ranko who subsequently told him in a letter that she had no romantic interest in him.… Read the rest

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Where The Crawdads Sing

Director – Olivia Newman – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 125m

***1/2

A young woman who grew up alone in the North Carolina Marshlands is the prime suspect for a murder she may or may not have committed – out in cinemas on Friday, July 22nd

The body of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) is discovered having fallen to his death from an old, 63’ high viewing platform. But did he fall or was he pushed? The reclusive, local outcast and so-called ‘Marsh Girl’ Kya Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones) swiftly becomes the prime suspect after sheriffs find a red, woolly hat at her house, a fibre from which matches one found on Chase’s corpse.

As the investigation proceeds in the generic form of a whodunit by way of a courtroom drama, with the kindly Tom Milton (David Strathairn) as her self-appointed defence attorney against the state prosecutor in her jury trial, the narrative spilts into two separate strands, with the story of Kya’s personal history from childhood to the then present day of 1969 running in parallel until… well, refusing to divulge spoilers forbids me from saying, except that the final reel and the ending are arguably the most satisfying part of this engrossing movie.… Read the rest

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Psycho

Director – Alfred Hitchcock – 1960 – US – Cert. 15 – 109 m

*****

A woman steals some money she’s supposed to bank at work and leaves town, winding up at a motel off the highway… where terrible events ensue – back out in cinemas on Friday, May 27th

(Warning: may contain spoilers.)

Often imitated, never equalled, Psycho sits so large in the firmament of cinema that it’s impossible to write about it as if seeing it for the first time. Hitchcock reused to admit cinemagoers after the film had started – a radical idea in a time when punters would show up, go in, watch ’til the end, watch from the point where they came in, then leave. “We won’t allow you to cheat yourself” ran the foyer blurb agreed between Hitch and Universal.

By the time I first saw the film, twenty years after its initial release on a BBC TV rerun some time in the late seventies / early eighties, I had seen clips of various scenes, probably in a BBC documentary about Hitchcock. Definitely the notorious shower scene. Probably the patrol man. Probably the staircase murder. Probably the skull lit by the swinging light bulb.… Read the rest

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The Northman

Director – Robert Eggers – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 136m

*****

A 10th Century Viking prince vows revenge on his father king’s killer and sees it through to death – out in cinemas on Friday, April 15th

Young Viking Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak from The Batman) is thrilled when his warrior father King Aurvandil War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) returns with a line of prisoners in two to his fortified stronghold and Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman). Father and son are devoted to each other, participating in a private ritual involving bodily sounds and consumption of an hallucinogenic liquid that causes the boy to experience a vision of his family line: a tree of life where the trunk is a spine and branches are umbilical cords attached to grown kings as the viewpoint pans up reveal the boy attached to the highest cord. He is now prepared to take over the rule of the kingdom when his father dies.

He doesn’t seem to get on quite so well with his mother, who warns him never to enter her room unannounced. At a banquet in honour of Aurvandil, his dour brother Fjölnir (Claes Bang from The Square, Ruben Östlund, 2017) takes exception to court jester Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe).… Read the rest

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Sideshow

Sideshow

Director – Adam Oldroyd – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 94m

**

Two thieves break in to the house of a washed-up showbiz psychic entertainer and medium – out in cinemas on Friday, March 11th and on all major digital download platforms on Monday, March 21st

Stuart Pendrick a.k.a. The All-Seeing Stupendo (Les Dennis) is a touring, one-man theatre act psychic and medium specialising in mind-reading and contacting the dead. He’s also a compulsive pickpocket with a mind like a sewer, hardly a great combination for wholesome entertainment. After attempting to ingratiate himself with the woman best dressed to show off her cleavage in the front row, he manages none too surprisingly to say the wrong thing and offend the mostly elderly audience.

He rows with his agent Gerald (Anthony Head) about this, insisting the latter pick up his fee for the performance and get it over to him as soon as possible, then drives away from the theatre unaware he’s being tailed by Eva (April Pearson from Tucked, Jamie Patterson, 2018) and the gun-carrying Dom (Nathan Clarke) who follow him to his house, wait for the lights to go out then break in to find the stash of money Eva is certain is in his possession.… Read the rest

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Deep Water (2022)

Director – Adrian Lyne – 2022 – US – Cert. US-R – 115m

****

A man is jealous of the lovers of his beautiful but promiscuous wife who start mysteriously dying one by one – out on Prime Video in the UK on Friday, March 18th

Vic (Ben Affleck) is devoted to his wife Melinda (Ana de Armas from No Time To Die, 2021, Cary Joji Fukunaga) for whom he would do anything, including give her her freedom. Since she doesn’t like being tied down to just one man, this means the freedom to sleep with any man she wants. She drinks a lot too and often stays out all night, refusing to tell Vic where she’s been in the morning. The trouble is, some time ago she slept with a man named MacRae and he vanished. Disappeared. No-one knows what happened to him.

Then one night, at a party he’s hosting, Vic scares Melinda’s current lover Joel (Brendan C. Miller) by confessing to the crime, by way of a joke. Or is it? Joel is inclined to think Vic the murderer. After a job offer causes Joel to leave the area, Melinda starts meeting a piano teacher Charles (Jacob Elordi).… Read the rest

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Death On The Nile (2020)

Director – Kenneth Branagh – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 127m

**

Detective Hercule Poirot must investigate a rising body count on a wedding party Nile cruise – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

Attending a gig by blues musician Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) where her niece and savvy business manager Rosalie Otterbourne (Laetitia Wright) is also in attendance, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) runs into Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) who are passionately in love with each other and engage in some extremely suggestive dancing. She encourages her friend Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) to take the floor with Simon, whereupon they too engage in some extremely suggestive dancing.

Holidaying in Egypt, Poiret runs into old acquaintance Bouc (Tom Bateman) and his overbearing mother Euphemia (Annette Bening). Cut to a lavish hotel where Simon and Linnet announce to a party of attendant friends that they are to be married. Simon appears to have done very well for himself: he lacks money or prospects while Linnet is a fabulously rich heiress. The understandably alienated Jacqueline, however, keeps following them around on their travels. The couple asks Poirot if he could do something about this. He refuses on the grounds that no crime has been committed, but nevertheless speaks with Jacqueline and politely asks her to back off.… Read the rest