Categories
Animation Features Movies

A Silent Voice (Koe no Katachi, 聲の形)

Director – Naoko Yamada – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 130m

****

Groundbreaking and innovative Japanese drama about school children, bullying, remorse, isolation and self-loathing – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now in the Special Programmes section (A Special Screening for the Hard of Hearing)

Egged on by Naoka Ueno (voice: Yuki Kaneko) then later shunned by classmates for his bullying of new girl in class Shoko Nishimiya (Saori Hayami), who happens to be deaf, Shoya Ishida (Miyu Irino) stops interacting with them and withdraws. This is represented onscreen by the extraordinary graphic device of an ‘X’ over the faces of his fellow schoolmates whenever they appear. It’s a very powerful way of expressing his isolation. Five years on, wrecked with guilt about his treatment of Nishimiya, he learns sign language and decides to befriend her and to make amends…

This film may well broaden your idea of what animation is capable. It’s nothing like Disney and equally it’s light years from Japanese SF action fest Akira (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988) although it likewise started life as a manga and concerns teenagers.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Tokyo Godfathers (Tokyo Goddofazazu, 東京ゴッドファーザーズ)

Director – Satoshi Kon – 2003 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 91m

*****

Three homeless people – a drag queen, a hard drinker and a runaway teenage girl – find an abandoned baby at Christmas and resolve to return her to her parents – plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

This opens with a nativity play to an audience of what one initially presumes to be admiring parents, a perception rapidly revised with the realisation that what is on offer is a programme of ‘nativity play, sermon, dinner’ for Tokyo’s homeless, with the first two items something to endure in order to access the much wanted third one. Any thought that the film is going to deal with religion is however swiftly dismissed with the introduction of three homeless characters holed up in an empty house containing a piles of discarded and bagged up goods, one of which turns out to contain an abandoned baby.

Teenage runaway Miyuki (voice: Aya Okamoto) has fallen in with two men old enough to be her father (if not her grandfather) who look out for her: the cross-dressing Miss Hana (voice: Yoshiaki Umegaki) and the hard-drinking Gin (voice: Toru Emori).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Tucked

Director – Jamie Patterson – 2018 – UK – Cert.15 – 80m

*****

An ageing drag queen with weeks to live takes a younger performer under his wing – British film dealing with gender fluidity and death is available on BFI Player from Thursday, March 17th

Are you straight? So is spaghetti – ’til it gets hot and sticky.

Just one of the dirty jokes in the small club stage repertoire of ageing drag queen Jackie (Derren Nesbitt), 74. One night he collapses on his kitchen floor. He has an aggressive form of cancer and only six to seven weeks left to live.

Another night. He’s asked to show the ropes to a new performer Faith (Jordan Stephens), 21. Discovering Faith sleeping in his car, he offers the boy a home (with no untoward intentions).

Jackie dresses in women’s clothes but also likes women: outrageously gay Faith is shocked to find Jackie isn’t. Faith thinks Jackie should tell his estranged daughter that he’s dying… Read the rest

Tucked is available on BFI Player from Thursday, March 10th, 2022.

Review for DMovies.org.

Tucked was out in the UK on Friday, May 17th 2018. On DVD and VoD in September 2018.… Read the rest

Categories
Live Action Series Television

Hellbound (Jiok)

Director – Yeon Sang-ho – 2021 – South Korea – 6 x 50m

*****

Angels state the time of death then demons come and cart people off to hell, generating a circus of fundamentalist, religious activity – series airs on Netflix from November 19th – reviewed for All The Anime

The new Netflix series Hellbound (2021) from South Korea’s Yeon Sang-ho, creator of zombie outings Seoul Station (2016) and Train To Busan (2016), began life as a webtoon some 11 minutes in length back in 2002. The first three x 50-minute episodes (out of six) have played a number of international film festivals.

Those first three episodes – screened at the London Film Festival where this writer saw them – explore notions of sin, eternal punishment and damnation. As in Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael’s hilarious and highly inventive comic, religious satire The Brand New Testament (2015), people are sent the date and time of their death then dazedly watch the moment approach on their mobile phones. After its announcement, when the time comes, three black and white, Hulk-like demons turn up to pound the person into a pulp, suck out their life force and burn the corpse… [Read more]

I review Hellbound (eps 1-3) for All The Anime.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

If Anything Happens I Love You

Directors – Will McCormack, Michael Govier – 2020 – US – 12m

*****

A couple and their spirit selves are haunted by a tragic loss from their family’s past in this beautifully economic, drawn animated short about grief and loss – on Netflix and winner of Best Animated Short at the 2020 / 2021 (93rd) Oscars

Drawn animation. A couple eat at home. Meatballs and spaghetti. Silently. Drawn in stark, gloomy black and white lines. Behind them, in sharply outlined areas of black smudge, the shadows of their spirit selves or perhaps their memories argue. This relationship is in trouble.

They go about the business of everyday living, in empty black and white, trying to snatch moments of individual joy where they can. He wanders round the outside of the house, noticing once again that bit of plasterwork he really should get fixed. She tends the potted plants and takes the laundry out of the machine, picking up the child-sized blue t-shirt. He sits watching the TV with a can of drink. She wanders into the bedroom with the empty bed and somehow the record player and a pop song gets turned on.

Happier times, playing football with their daughter (10) in the garden, the ball taking off a chuck of the wall cladding.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

37 Seconds

Director – Hikari – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 115m

*****

A wheelchair-bound, young woman manga artist struggles to become independent of her over-protective mother – on Netflix from Friday, January 31st, 2020

Yuma (Mei Kayama), wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy from birth, lives with her mother Kyoko (Misuzo Kanno) who looks after her in a small Tokyo apartment. However Yuma is far from helpless with a day job as an uncredited manga artist who draws and writes the comics allegedly penned by fast rising YouTube star Sayaka (Minori Hagiwara). The uncomplaining Yuma secretly yearns for Sayaka’s celebrity, if not to actually be her at least to know what it feels like, but Sayaka bans her from attending any public events such as book signings.

Yuma starts exploring ways of going independent of Sayaka. She shows some work to Iketani (Shohei Uno) from Sayaka’s publishers who tells her that what she’s produced is good but alas too close to Sayaka’s work. Finding a bunch of porn manga magazines in a park, she phones around to see it the magazines are taking submissions and embarks on an erotic space opera series, lovingly rendered in a sequence which is not so much full animation but more like an animated peruse through pages of manga, only to be told when she goes to see a friendly editor Ms.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Over The Moon

Directors – Glen Keane, John Kahrs – 2020 – US, China – Cert. U – 95m

*****

A girl bereaved of her mother builds a rocket to the moon to prove the goddess Chang’e is real and convince her father not to re-marry – animated feature in cinemas from Friday, October 16th and on Netflix from Friday, October 23rd.

In Chinese mythology, archer Houyi’s wife Chang’e consumed an immortality potion then went to the moon where she mourned her lost love. The tale is also the basis of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrated in many countries in the Far East. Using the mythology as a backdrop, the late screenwriter Audrey Wells crafted an extraordinary story about a girl who fails to properly deal with bereavement when her mother dies.

The figure of Chang’e acts as a metaphor for Fei Fei (voiced by Cathy Ang) who wants her dad (voice: John Cho) to be faithful to his late wife. When dad introduces a new mum Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), with a new and irritating little brother Chin (Robert G. Chiu) in tow, she decides that to convince him to remain true to mum, she must go to the moon and prove Chang’e real, which will convince her dad to do the right thing.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

ManHunt (Zhui bu, 追捕)

Director – John Woo – 2017 – China, Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

Hong Kong action director John Woo’s return to form – currently on Netflix.

The late Japanese actor Ken Takakura who died in 2014 appeared in more than 200 films and made his name playing ex-cons and gangsters for Toei studios between the mid-fifties and mid-seventies. He was a major inspiration for Hong Kong director John Woo who here remakes the 1976 Takakura vehicle Manhunt.

Du Qiu (Chinese actor Zhang Hanyu) finds himself in a Japanese bar swapping notes on movies with the mama-san Rain (Korea’s Ha Ji-won). Almost immediately, a loutish group of men in suits storm into the same bar to demand he leaves so she can give them her full attention. Once he’s gone, Rain and her partner Dawn (the director’s daughter Angeles Woo) proceed to gun down the suits, the camera whirling around them as Woo choreographs the mayhem.

Du is a lawyer working for a pharma company. The morning after a huge corporate event he wakes up to find a dead woman (Tao Okamoto) lying next to him in his bed. Implicated in her murder, he goes on the run.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Director – Kirsten Johnson – 2020 – US – 89m

*****

The director imagines the death of her dad in a film which celebrates both the man himself and the art of cinema – on Netflix worldwide from Friday, October 2nd

I was alerted to this movie both because not only was Johnson’s prior Cameraperson (2016) excellent but also the subject matter of this new film looked promising. Johnson spent three decades as the cameraperson on numerous documentaries (among them Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore, 2004 and Citizenfour, Laura Poitras, 2014) before making her previous feature out of interesting bits and pieces of footage she had lying around. Her new film is highly personal and almost fits into the home movies or personal diary school of film making – lent an inevitable, additional gravitas given Johnson’s prior artistic and technical career.

C. Richard Johnson (b. 1932 – ) is Kirsten Johnson’s dad. One day, like all of us, he is going to die. So his daughter decided that while he was still alive she would make a film about his dying, filming his possible deaths and staging his funeral service ahead of time.

There’s a huge contradiction at the heart of this idea.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sputnik

Director – Egor Abramenko – 2020 – Russia – Cert. 15 – 113m

***** some of the underlying concepts and the special effects

** everything else

Available on VoD from Friday, August 14th. Now on Netflix

In the early 1980s a two-man Russian spacecraft undergoes a mysterious incident during its return to Earth leaving one of the crew dead. He has had half his helmet and half his head ripped off.

Survivor Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) is confined to a research base in the middle of nowhere for observation. Supervisor Kirill Averchenko (Aleksey Demidov) recruits psychiatrist Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) who is in trouble for taking ethically questionable decisions concerning the life of a patient, believing that she did the right thing and saved a life. Averchenko needs someone who will do whatever it takes and damn the consequences and he would appear to have judged her correctly. Once there, however, she finds herself in conflict with chief scientist Yan Rigel (Anton Vasilev).

She quickly learns that the surviving, isolated cosmonaut is the host to an alien parasite which leaves his body at specific times of night then returns. And Konstantin, who suffered memory blackout during the return to Earth, doesn’t seem to know about the parasite.… Read the rest