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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

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Detective Chinatown 3 (Tang Ren Jie Tan An 3, 唐人街探案3)

Director – Chen Sicheng – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 136m

****

The Chinese franchise’s super-sleuth and bumbling sidekick join forces with their Japanese and Thai counterparts in Japan – out in cinemas on Tuesday, January 25th and 26th only

No sooner have the brilliant crime-solving sleuth Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) and his likeable if barely competent sidekick Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) flown in to Tokyo and met their contact there, the sharp and colourful Hiroshi Noda (Satoshi Tsumabuki), than they find themselves embroiled in one of the most seriously bonkers action sequences in the movies in recent years when members of (at least) two gangs suddenly attack in the airport to the inspired accompaniment of the pop song ‘Welcome To Tokyo’ (which gets rolled out again for a cheerful, cast of thousands, song and dance routine accompanying the end credits). Extensive mayhem ensures. A man rolls down a long flight of steps in an oil drum. Two groups of smartly uniformed and skirted women do battle (one group in red, one in blue – stewardesses from rival airlines, perhaps?). Workmen in hard hats and overalls descend from scaffolding to join the melee.

Knowing this will be an impossible act to follow, the film then throws in a pursuer Jack Jaa (Thai martial arts sensation Tony Jaa from Ong-bak, Prachya Pinkaew, 2003) on the Tokyo subway before having the trio flee him on go-karts while he comes unstoppably and hilariously after them by stealing a child’s bicycle with tiny wheels.… Read the rest

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House Of Gucci

Director – Ridley Scott – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 157m

*****

A woman marries into the wealthy Gucci family and inadvertently brings about its downfall – out in cinemas on Friday, November 26th

First impressions.

A beautiful day. A well-dressed man (Adam Driver) relaxes at the café, pays his bill, cycles through the streets. Life is good. He reaches his destination. As he approaches the door, a voice asks, “Mr. Gucci?”

Milan, 1978. Another beautiful day. A woman dressed and moving like a goddess (Lady Gaga) walks past trucks and workers to her father’s transportation business office where she works as his assistant. Later, a friend asks her to a costume party. She dances. She looks incredible. She goes for a drink. The barman (Driver) turns out not to be not the barman. He makes her a drink anyway. He’s Maurizio. Gucci. He knows the host. She’s Patrizia Reggiani. She doesn’t. He tells her he can’t dance. She drags him onto the dance floor and makes him look good even though he does nothing. He leaves at midnight, worried he’ll turn into a frog. It’s a pumpkin, she calls after him.

She stalks him, ‘accidentally’ bumping into him at a bookshop where he’s buying armfuls of legal books (he’s studying to be a lawyer).… Read the rest

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Annette

Director – Leos Carax – 2021 – France, US – Cert. 15 – 141m

****1/2

Musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – on MUBI from Friday, November 26th

Although billed as a musical, this may actually be closer to opera given that even though it starts as a story about two people deeply in love, it veers into very dark territory.

And yet framing all that, and underscoring it throughout, is the sheer pleasure of writing / composing songs… and, for that matter, performing them. The opening song is So May We Start while the closer, as the credits roll, is It’s The End. (For added enjoyment, watch 90% of the audience leave before the last song starts. Or in my case, 10% of my fellow critics.)

The former starts with the band, the brothers Mael (singer Russell and keyboard player / composer Ron, profiled in recent documentary The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright, 2021) and a backing band in a recording studio in an invitation for the proceedings to get going, swiftly joined by the film’s two leads, while the latter ends with seemingly the entire movie cast and crew walking through the countryside hoping we’ve enjoyed the show and asking us to tell our friends if we did so.… Read the rest

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Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

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Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

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Ring (Collection)

Ring

Director – Hideo Nakata – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

Spiral (Rasen)

Director – Joji Iida – 1998 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 97m

** 1/2

Ring 2

Director – Hideo Nakata – 1999 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 95m

*****

Ring 0

Director – Norio Tsuruta – 2000 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 99m

***1/2

Ring plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank, also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Ring and Ring 2 are on Shudder.

You watch a short, scary video on the VCR. Then your phone rings… you have a week to show it to someone else – or die! Ring (1998) took the world by storm.

A single parent, TV journalist investigates a cursed videotape…

I review Arrow’s Ring Collection for All The Anime.

Ring plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank, also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Ring and Ring 2 are on Shudder.

Trailer: