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Features Live Action Movies

Bullet Train

Director – David Leitch – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 126m

***

A man boards a bullet train in Tokyo to steal a suitcase only to be prevented from leaving the train every time he tries to get off it – lightweight action thriller is out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, August 3rd

This adaptation of mystery writer Kotoro Isaka’s 2010 novel, for which the Japanese title literally translates as Maria Beetle, concerns five assassins, each with their separate agenda, who board a bullet train. The film casts Westerners in many of these roles, repopulating the film with an international cast of Americans, Brits and Japanese. Brad Pitt as the lead obviously has box office clout, and is as watchable as ever in this film, however the film has inevitably been accused of whitewashing (even though ‘white’ here would seem to include Puerto Rican and African-American).

The producers here seem to think Japanese high speed rail journeys will draw international audiences but entirely Japanese characters will not. Whether or not they’re correct, casting the film the way they have reinforces this notion. Who else could have done it, you ask? Off the top of my head, I can think of three Hong Kong Chinese, any of whom would work: Chow Yun-fat, Jackie Chan or Tony Leung Chiu-wai.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time

Directors – Robert B. Weide, Dan Argott – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 127m

*****

A warm and compelling look at the life of writer Kurt Vonnegut, the influence upon him of the bombing of Dresden, and his decades-long friendship with director Weide – out in cinemas and on digital platforms from Friday, July 22nd

Read my shorter review for Reform magazine.

The documentary Weide eventually made about Vonnegut took him the best part of four decades to complete. Weide opens with a statement about Vonnegut walking in the woods, feeling a tree and seeing the bombing of Dresden before it occurred. There seems no reason to doubt Vonnegut. He was unstuck in time, jumping around the years and decades. Weide first contacted him in 1982, never imagining that it would take him anything like as long to complete the film as it did. He starts looking at interviews of himself (“who wants to see a documentary in which a filmmaker appears as himself?”, he asks) – defined by where they were shot or what shirt Weide was wearing at the time.

Whatever else Vonnegut and his writing are, they are not conventional. He punctuates his verbal outpourings with little doodle drawings.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time

Transformed by an atrocity

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time
Directed by Robert B. Weide, Dan Argott
Certificate 15
Released 22 July (cinemas and digital platforms)

Full review published in Reform magazine.

The late Kurt Vonnegut claims that after touching a tree trunk he saw the bombing of Dresden before it actually happened, and it’s easy to believe him. His whole life, he says, has been unstuck in time. Born in Indianapolis in 1922, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and was shipped off as a POW to Dresden, a bustling metropolis unlike anything he’d previously seen. He survived the Allied bombing of that city inside an underground meat locker and emerged to see it razed to the ground. The Germans had him and fellow prisoners search for bodies amongst the ruins.

Back in the States… [Read the rest at Reform magazine]

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time is out in cinemas and on Altitude Film digital platform in the UK from Friday, July 22nd.

Read my longer review.

Adaptation of Vonnegut’s Mother Night (writer-producer Robert B. Weide, 1996) – review.

Never Look Away (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2018) also covers the bombing of Dresden – review.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Miami Blues

Director – George Armitage – 1990 – US – Cert. 18 – 97m

Fred Ward produced and starred in an adaptation of the first of Charles Willeford’s Hoke Moseley crime novels in 1990

****

Review from TNT magazine, March 1990, republished here on the death of actor Fred Ward, May 2022

To anyone already familiar with Charles Willeford’s hard-boiled novel Miami Blues, writer/director George Armitage’s screen version races through its opening so fast that numerous elements which set up what follows are omitted. Add to this the unlikely casting of Fred Ward (also one of the executive producers here) as Police Sergeant Hoke Moseley and Alec Baldwin as the killer Freddy Frenger Junior, and the end result is quite some distance from the original.

Frenger’s initial assault on a Krishna at Miami Airport – who dies of shock after his finger is broken by being bent backwards – is reduced to a one-off incident rather than an important link in Willeford’s complex chain of events. Prostitute/college student Susan Waggoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh), with whom Junior gets involved, is no longer the sister of the Krishna victim. Gone, too, are Junior’s observations about Japanese haikus, in which his readings of the Japanese poems reveal his utter paucity of vision.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Shirley

Director – Josephine Decker – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 107m

****

Notorious author Shirley Jackson and her professor husband are seen through the eyes of a young couple invited to stay in their house – in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, October 30th

The real life Shirley Jackson was an author who wrote fiction. She’s known to cinemagoers for the book The Haunting Of Hill House (1959) that was filmed twice for the movies as The Haunting, once brilliantly (Robert Wise, 1963) and once killed dead by an overabundance of gratuitous special effects (Jan de Bont, 1999) and more recently was turned into a Netflix TV series (Mike Flanagan, 2018). That book may not be mentioned here, but the piece of her writing that does get a mention is The Lottery, her notorious short story which appeared in 1948 in The New Yorker Magazine, where she published much of her fiction.

This new film adapts Susan Scarf Merrell’s comparatively recent, fictional book Shirley: A Novel (2016) in which she examines Shirley Jackson and her academic professor husband Stanley Edgar Hyman through the eyes of a young, pregnant woman who moves into their household along with her husband who is hoping to secure an assistant literature professor’s post at the local college in Bennington, Vermont under Stanley.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Lost World (1925)

Director – Harry O. Hoyt – 1925 – US – Cert. U – 110m

*****

Review of PAL VHS release originally published in Starlog UK, mid-1990s.

£12.99, Original Aspect Ratio (Academy), Mono (Golden Age Films)

Before Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg purloined the name for their Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Professor Challenger novel. In the book, the bombastic scientist leads an expedition to a plateau deep in the Amazon cut off from the rest of the world which he claims to be populated by dinosaurs.

This 1925 silent Hollywood adaptation (here released in 1993’s restored, untinted, black and white print with piano accompaniment) features prominently in any serious shortlist of live action movies featuring dinosaurs along with King Kong, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Gojira (Godzilla), One Million Years BC and Jurassic Park. Indeed, leaving aside 1955’s Japanese, man‑in-a-rubber-suit entry Gojira, the remaining titles are The Lost World’s descendants via their use of optical trickery and stop‑motion animation.

The Lost World’s miniature model dinosaurs and their incorporation as fully articulated giant beasts into live action cinematography was primarily the work of stop-frame animator cum special effects genius Willis O’Brien, later to put the dinosaurs into 1933’s King Kong and win a belated special effects Oscar on the back of 1949’s Mighty Joe Young.… Read the rest