Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

It Comes (Kuru, 来る)

Director – Tetsuya Nakashima – 2018 – Japan – 133m

****

A monster relentlessly pursues its victims until one day it comes to take them away forever – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2023 between Friday, 3rd February and Friday, 31st March

This is basically a monster film in which the monster is a bogeyman or evil spirit who after taunting potential victims – usually children – for a long time, then turns up and abducts them from this world into its own. You never see the monster: it’s all conveyed by preparation, suggestion and effect, and the characters’ actions and reactions.

And although the monster is apparently intent on abducting the child, various adult characters who appear to be significant protagonists suddenly get abducted by it. While it’s nowhere near the same league, in this respect, the film resembles Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) i.e. a significant character is despatched part-way through leaving another character to step into their shoes for the remainder.

The monster as such never physically appears (or, at least, we in the audience never actually see it) – its appearance is often presaged by following peculiar occult instructions, e.g. laying out multiple bowls of water on a corridor floor, or breaking all the mirrors in the house, accompanied by frenzied editing of quasi-abstract footage including camera-less animation (the sort of thing Len Lye and Norman McLaren used to make in the 1930s at the UK’s GPO Film Unit).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Queen Of Spades

Director – Thorold Dickinson – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

****1/2

A Russian army officer seeks the occult secret of playing cards that will earn him a vast fortune, but has not bargained for the dark, supernatural forces involved – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 23rd and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on January 23rd

1806, St. Petersburg. Unlike his well-connected aristocrat contemporaries in the army, Captain Goeman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) sees no opportunity for advancement. In a bookstore, he chances upon an arcane volume which the store owner suggests will offer various opportunities for personal betterment fraught with danger. Reading up on “people who have sold their soul”, he learns that the Countess (Pauline Tennant) made her fortune in a gambling den with the secret of three unbeatable playing cards for which she agreed to sell her soul after one of her lovers stole her considerable personal allowance, taking advantage of her needing him to leave quickly in order to prevent her husband’s discovering his presence in her bedchamber, which stolen monies she then needed to find a means of replacing.

As the Countess is now an old woman (Dame Edith Evans), Goeman resolves to get close to her by romancing her ward Lizavyeta Ivanovna (Yvonne Mitchell) using words for love letters suggested by contemporary aristocratic officer Andrei Andreyonov (Ronald Howard) with neither of them aware that they are actually interested in the affections of the same girl.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

One Piece Film: Red (One Piece Film: Red)

Director – Goro Taniguchi – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 115m

***1/2

A girl who wants to sing to the world and usher in an era of happiness has been possessed by a dark power which has other plans – out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 4th (IMAX, subbed), Saturday, November 5th (dubbed)

A female voice promises “a great genesis of happiness for all”. There is great anticipation at the prospect of the beloved singer Uta performing live for the first time. Like her “genesis of happiness” sound bite, this teenager’s songs are full of phrases that sound superficially attractive but, for anyone pausing for a moment to think about them, are pure, contentless fluff. As she belts out phrases like, “you can’t stop magic” to adoring multitudes that revere all this like some utopian manifesto (which perhaps is already implied by the name Uta) and the rather more cynical pirate section of the audience (for this is a world in which pirates operate) plan to kidnap her and make a pile of money, a teenager throws an organic looking rope-like extension which attaches itself to a spot near her as if it were as grappling hook and allows it to pull within a few feet of her, to the annoyance of the pirates whose plan it disrupts.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Tad The Lost Explorer And The Curse Of The Mummy (Tad The Lost Explorer And The Emerald Tablet; Tadeo Jones 3. La Tabla Esmeralda; Tadeo Jones 3. La Taula Maragda)

Director – Enrique Gato – 2022 – Spain – Cert. U – 90m

****

In Mexico, desperate for recognition as a bona fide archaeologist, our hero unearths an Egyptian sarcophagus and unleashes a mysterious power from an Inca temple – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 9th

Gato’s third instalment of the Tad The Lost Explorer franchise is a lot better than it sounds, chiefly because it delivers narrative coherence and picks up and runs with numerous opportunities afforded by character and script where the similarly inventive Minions: The Rise Of Gru (Kyle Balda, Brad Ableson, Jonathan del Val, 2022) failed.

Having agreed with girlfriend Sara not to go public about his previous archaeological discoveries, Tad has with her help got on to the Chicago Museum’s dig in Mexico – as a lowly assistant, even though he seems more clued-up than the three qualified archaeologists in charge. Rashly opening a secret door by pushing a part of a wall frieze, he finds himself in a vast chamber containing an Egyptian sarcophagus, his report of which is pooh-poohed by his three superiors until, after firing him, they discover it for themselves and take the credit.

This rivalry between the ‘amateur’ Tad and qualified but comparatively clueless ‘professionals’ is kept up throughout the narrative, although the professionals remain secondary characters.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Wake Wood

Director – David Keating – 2009 – UK, Ireland – Cert. 18 – 90m

*****

Things are not what they seem, supernatural power is abroad and terrible prices have to be paid in a mysterious, close-knit village community – out in UK cinemas from Friday, March 25th, 2011

This review originally appeared in Third Way.

This presages the recent relaunching of Hammer Films, a huge cultural force back in the 1950s and 60s reworking such horror staples as Dracula and Frankenstein. So far UK cinemas have hosted (1) Let Me In‘s arguably pointless US remake of terrific Swedish vampire effort Let The Right One In and (2) predictable, New York tenant in peril outing The Resident. Wake Wood is not only far and away the best of the three, but also fits in with the Hammer ethos – here represented by a mysterious, close-knit village community where things are not what they seem, supernatural power is abroad, and terrible prices have to be paid for misjudged actions. A fair bit of blood and gore is added for good measure.

After their only daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) is fatally savaged by a dog, Irish city dwellers vets Patrick and Louise Daly (Aidan Gillen from The Wire and Eva Birthistle) move to the isolated village of Wake Wood to start over.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Lupin III The First (ルパン三世 THE FIRST)

Director – Takashi Yamazaki – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 93m

****

Master thief Lupin III sets out to steal a diary protected by a lock with a fiendishly complex mechanism and becomes embroiled in an occult, Nazi plot to take over the world – screening in Scotland Loves Anime, Edinburgh on Monday, October 11th at 18.00 and Online (ten titles for only £4!!!) October 1st – November 1st

A character with a long history in Japan in anime, manga artist Monkey Punch’s celebrated gentleman thief Arsène Lupin III is a descendant of Frenchman Maurice LeBlanc‘s Arsène Lupin character. LeBlanc’s bona fide character recently featured in the French live action Netflix series Lupin (creator: George Kay, 2021). 

For this Japanese reboot, Lupin III and his fellow franchise characters are back on the big screen, now lovingly animated in state of the art 3D animation which has never looked quite like this. The nimble movements of Lupin as he typically evades the grasp of Interpol’s Inspector Zenigata by firing a climbing line at a ceiling, outwits an ingénue girl thief on Paris rooftops and finally has his stolen object taken off his hands by the shapely Fujiko Mine as she dangles from a helicopter rope ladder would look good in drawn animation – for similar antics look no further than earlier Lupin III outing The Castle Of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1980) – but they look considerably better rendered in full 3D CG here. … Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Banishing

Director – Christopher Smith – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

***1/2

A vicar, his wife and their daughter move into a haunted rectory which seems to be out to get them – on digital platforms from Friday, March 26th and Shudder from Thursday, April 15th

The Rev Stanley Hall (Matthew Clarke) is found hanged from the top of four-poster bed in his bedroom in the old rectory near the village. This follows a session with his hefty bible, annotated in placed with scrawled pentagrams and pages burned through with holes, his reading out loud Pauline admonitions against ‘sexual immorality’ and a bizarre vision of himself either having sex with or inflicting extreme bloody violence upon his wife (or possibly both at once – it’s not entirely clear). Bishop Malachi (John Lynch) is summoned to the house.

Three years later, Malachi installs a new vicar Linus (John Heffernan) in the property which has remained vacant in the interim. Linus is joined by wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her illegitimate daughter Adelaide (Anya Mckenna-Bruce) as well as the house’s incumbent deaf maid Betsy (Jean St. Clair). Like his predecessor, Linus is obsessed with abstaining from sexual immorality, despite his wife’s pointing out to him that they are married.… Read the rest