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Animation Features Movies

Inu-Oh (Inu-Oh, 犬王)

Director – Masaaki Yuasa – 2021 – Japan – Cert. – 98m

***1/2

In fourteenth century Japan, a blind musician and a deformed, masked dancer shake up the culturally staid world of Noh theatre by forming a hugely popular rock band – out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, September 28th

You never quite know what you’re going to get with an animated feature by Masaaki Yuasa (Ride Your Wave,2019; Lu Over the Wall, 2017; Mind Game, 2004) as he has a tendency to break with tradition. Here, he takes on periods of Japanese history but rather than go with power struggles as to who rules Japan, he focuses on two outcasts, an orphaned musician and a deformed dancer, who join together to form a rock band with an emphasis on theatrical showmanship to upend the artistic conventions of the day and become an overnight sensation until the ascendant ruler, determined to control the historical narrative, has the musician killed, and the dancer emasculated, forbidden to perform anything but state-approved material, and that only in the Imperial court.

It’s a triptych, one long story split into three sections. In the first section, after a prologue detailing the decisive Battle of Dan-No-Ura towards the end of the twelfth century, in which the Heiji clan were defeated by the Genji and the formers warriors threw themselves into the sea and perished, two centuries later in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, Northern would be Kyoto-based, shogunate emperor Ashitaka decides that the power to rule demands he acquire three sacred treasures, one of which is a sword buried in the lake at Dan-No-Ura.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore

Director – David Yates – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 142m

***

In the 1930s, Newt Scamander, Albus Dumbledore and others attempt to prevent the despotic wizard Grindlewald from seizing power in a wizard’s election in J.K. Rowling’s third Fantastic Beasts movie – out in cinemas on Friday, April 8th

It’s difficult to know where to start with the third of J.K. Rowling’s self-penned Fantastic Beasts productions. A plethora of characters who apart from a few main ones quickly get confusing, some genuinely fantastic beasts as you would hope and some truly great underlying ideas poorly served by a narrative that doesn’t seem to understand basic storytelling in cinema. Perhaps if I’d immersed myself in all the books and films and whatever else is out there, it would make more sense (and no doubt this is what much of the dedicated fan audience will do), but as a standalone film, even one that’s a part of an ongoing saga, it makes little sense, although certain sequences are terrific.

The big ideas here are built around a creature called a Qilin (pronounced chillin) – a beast borrowed from Chinese and Far Eastern mythology – specifically an orphaned newborn Qilin that looks a lot like a golden version of Bambi, a resemblance underscored by the fate meted out to its mother in the opening reel.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Sound Of Nomad: Koryo Arirang

Director – Kim So-young (as Kim Jeong) – 2017 – South Korea – 87m

****

How an indigenous theatre company kept the culture of the Koryo people alive after they were deported by the Soviet authorities from Far East Russia to Kazakhstan in 1937 – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

The Beijing Treaty (of 1860 although the date isn’t mentioned) ceded to Russia the so-called Maritime Province – an area of land stretching down to Vladivostock. The territory bordered on the Northwestern tip of Choson (Joseon), today’s Korea, and Chosons stated migrating into the Maritime Province, calling themselves the Koryo people. In late 1937, the Soviet authorities decided that the Koryos could potentially be Japanese spies and deported them in boarded up trains to Ushtobei, Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

The journey took two days and many children died, their corpses thrown unceremoniously out of the train at night. After the journey, the deportees faced a harsh winter, the eventual death toll rising to 40 000.

This story has been documented in Korea, but little else about the Koryos has. The first Kazakhstan Koryo settlement in Ushtobei is today marked by a memorial.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Cruella

Director – Craig Gillespie – 2020 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 134m

****

A 101 Dalmatians prequel. How a girl named Estella unleashed her darker personality of Cruella de Vil – in cinemas from Friday, May 28th

Disney’s project of mining their pantheon of animated classics for live action feature material continues. Here it’s the turn of Cruella de Vil, the villain from 101 Dalmatians (Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wolfgang Reitherman, 1961), and a very clever reimagination it is too. It commences with her birth and cleverly conceals certain significant details of her upbringing only to reveal them at the tale’s climax and give everything that went before a completely new spin.

Estella (Tipper Siefert-Cleveland) is the daughter of Catherine (Emily Beecham). Befriended at school by Anita Darling (Florisa Kamara) but picked on by bullies, Estella gives as good as she gets, fights back and gets expelled for figuratively blotting her copybook. 

So her mother pays a visit to former employer the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) seeking help. But thanks to Estella’s refusal to do as she’s told and stay in the car and her dog Buddy’s strikingly similar refusal to obey Estella this plan goes fatally wrong.… 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