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Belfast

Director – Kenneth Branagh – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 98m

*****

1969, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The life of a young boy and his family is impacted by The Troubles as Christian sectarianism explodes into violence on their street – out in cinemas on Friday, January 21st

Bookended by colour images of contemporary Belfast, Northern Ireland, this swiftly traverses a colour montage to pan up a wall to the black and white photographed 1969 beyond. The closing moments also feature the genuinely touching legend, “For the ones who stayed, For the ones who left, And for the ones who were lost.”

Elsewhere, apart from family trips to the cinema to see the likes of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Ken Hughes, 1968), where the clips from the movie and light reflected from it onto the black and white audience are in colour, everything else (including other aspects of the family cinema-going experience) is entirely in black and white.

The first ten minutes are a particularly tough watch, as images of kids playing footy, hopscotch or knights in armour (wooden swords and dustbin lids) in the streets give way to nine-year-old Buddy (ten-year-old Jude Hill) returning home to find men with clubs breaking windows on his street, hurling Molotov cocktails and shouting, “get these fockers off your street.”… Read the rest

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Cry Macho

Director – Clint Eastwood – 2021 – US – Cert. 12 – 104m

***1/2

A rodeo star and horse trainer well past his prime is sent to bring his boss’ son back to Texas from his “abusive” mother in Mexico – out to rent on Premium Video on Demand from Monday, December 13th

1979. Mike Milo (Clint Eastwood) is late for work. Again. His boss Howard Polk (Dwight Yoakam) ticks him off. Milo verbally lays into him. Gets fired. Newsreel footage from back in the day shows Mike’s rodeo accident, when a horse threw him and he landed on his back. He’s never been the same since.

They go back a long way, though, and that isn’t the end of their relationship. Howard phones Mike for a favour. Howard hasn’t seen his son since the boy was six. He’s now 13 and living with his mother, Howard’s estranged ex, down in Mexico. Howard has heard is son is being abused, although he doesn’t clarify. He wants Mike to go down to Mexico and bring the boy back.

Mike is unsure but agrees. His attempt to complete this task will form the body of the movie. He finds the mother’s house easily enough.… Read the rest

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Run

Tramps like us

Run
Directed by Scott Graham
Certificate 15, 77 minutes
Released 13 March

Now on BFI Player subscription and iTunes. Review first published in Reform, March 2020.

Finnie (Mark Stanley) hates his job in a fish factory in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. He and his wife Katie (Amy Manson) have Springsteen’s legend ‘Born to Run’ tattooed on his chest and her ankle, but as he says to her: ‘We never did run very far, did we?’ This is a story about regret and longing, about not getting out, family and relationships.

Finnie’s older son Kid (Anders Hayward) has just got his girlfriend Kelly (Marli Siu) pregnant, isn’t talking to and has been dumped by her. Kid throws a wobbly at work, in the same plant as Finnie, and loses his job. When Katie gives Finnie the come on, he just wants to shower because he stinks of fish. Out of nowhere, he borrows Kid’s car keys and takes his son’s car out for a spot of illegal night time street racing, something he used to do when younger… Read the rest

Now on BFI Player subscription and iTunes. Review first published in Reform, March 2020.

Trailer:

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Microhabitat (So-gong-nyeo, 소공녀)

Director – Jeon Go-woon – 2017 – South Korea – 106m

****1/2

The price has gone up. Yet again! A woman who wants nothing more from life than to be able to enjoy whisky and smoking enacts a radical plan to combat everyday inflation – on MUBI from Thursday, November 25th as part of their New South Korean Cinema season.

Miso (Lee Som aka Esom), whose name in Korean means both ‘smile’ and ‘micro’, lives in a small, one room, unheated apartment in Seoul. So cold in fact that when she and her boyfriend Hansol (Ahn Jae-hong) start peeling off multiple layers of clothing in the middle of winter that she’s given up by the time she’s down to her slip. It’ll have to wait ’til the Spring.

Having enough money is a constant struggle, but she’s shrewd and always puts aside enough for basic outgoings like food and rent as well as pleasures like smoking and whisky every month. When her landlord tells her the rent is going up, because his landlord is putting his rent up and he needs to pass some of the increase on to his tenants, she realises she’s going to have to cut something.… Read the rest

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Ghostbusters Afterlife

Director – Jason Reitman – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

A single parent mum and her two teenage kids relocate to a small American town to find strange, paranormal goings-on – out in cinemas on Thursday, November 18th

Hollywood loves sequels to or reboots of successful films. The original Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984), in which three parapsychologists set up as a team to capture the many ghosts that have inexplicably begun appearing in New York City, was unlike anything that had gone before with its mixture of comedy, action and the paranormal. Deservedly a huge hit, it spawned the inevitable sequel Ghostbusters II (Ivan Reitman, 1989) which didn’t have a strong enough plot to maintain interest beyond the first 20 minutes or so. The reboot Ghostbusters (Paul Feig, 2016), recasting the parapsychologists as women, worked well enough.

Ghostbusters Afterlife, however, is another attempt at a sequel. A very brave attempt it is too, because sequels are often expected to basically rerun the original film in an attempt to serve the audience a second helping of what they enjoyed before. After seeing it, you might argue that Afterlife does that, but going in, you might wonder what on Earth is going on.… Read the rest

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The Housemaid (Hanyo, 하녀) (2010)

Director – Im Sang-soo – 2010 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 110m

****

The husband of a well-heeled family has an affair with the new maid, arousing the ire of his loyal housekeeper and ruthless mother – screening on Wednesday, November 17th with a director Q&A as part of a strand of films celebrating actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th; the film is also showing on BFI Player subscription

It’s inevitable that a South Korean film with this title invites comparisons with Kim Ki-young’s 1960 film of the same name, a watershed in Korean cinema. Whatever its virtues, Im Sang-Soo’s film can’t similarly be a watershed. If it’s based on that film as its end credits claim, it abandons the original’s central thesis. The housemaid here is not a social climber intent on seducing the husband. Rather, the family are part of the pampered super-rich elite, a small girl Nami (Ahn Seo-hyun, star of Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017) who takes having a maid for granted, a heavily pregnant wife Hae-ra (Woo Seo) who thinks the difficulties of having to raise children yourself are “for common people” and a husband Hoon Go (Lee Jung-jae from TV mini-series Squid Game, Hwang Dong-hyuk, 2021) who, unable to get full sexual services from his pregnant wife, seeks his pleasures with the new maid Li Eun-yi (Jeon Do-youn) who appears, initially at least, somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, but then goes with the flow.… Read the rest

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The Prayer (Gan Ho-Joong, 간호중)

Director – Min Kyu-dong – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12a – 108m

*****

Just how capable are caregiver androids of looking after their terminally ill patients? – thought-provoking science fiction from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

In a vast, multi-storey building complex, end of life patients are attended by Caregivers, lifelike female androids programmed to perform all the necessary tasks of palliative care, their faces modelled after their purchaser. Manufactured by the German TRS Corporation, they come in a variety of models, including an entry-level type with only basic functions and a more advanced models which can cope better with patients’ needs.

One patient is surrounded by Christian friends of his wife loudly singing praise and worship songs, to the annoyance of those living in nearby units. Adherents of the Christian religion play quite a significant part in the narrative, with nun Sister Sabina (Ye Soo-jung) going round putting stickers wherever she can in these complexes inviting people to phone her if they want to pray.

They might well want to take up her offer. A lot of the patients’ relatives / carers could do with some sort of assistance. Mrs. Choi (Yum Hye-ran from Default, Choi Kook-hee, 2018; Memories Of Murder, Bong Joon Ho, 2003) has sold the family home to pay for a Caregiver (also Yum Hye-ran) for her dementia-stricken husband (Yoon Kyung-ho from Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017).… Read the rest

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Japan 2021 and Yasujiro Ozu

Full article: All The Anime.

So, Scotland Loves Anime is over (save a few stragglers at the Film House) and you’re wondering where you can see more Japanese movies. Today, the BFI finally kicks off its major Japan season originally scheduled for 2020 at London’s BFI Southbank. Originally intended to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics, the programmers rejigged the programme and put parts of it out online from May to September 2020 via the excellent BFI Player platform while Sight & Sound’s wonderful anime special was out on the shelves for around three months thanks to lockdown.

Alongside the BFI’s online coup of numerous Kurosawa movies including Seven Samurai (1954), reissued as a brand new print in UK cinemas from 29th October along with prints of Throne of Blood (1957) and Yojimbo (1961), comes a similar quantity of Yasujiro Ozu movies, a rare chance to get an overview of one of Japan’s most popular domestic talents. Ozu (1903-1963) is best known for Tokyo Story (1953, pictured)… [Read more]

I review the BFI’s Japan 2021 season and the films of Yasujiro Ozu for All The Anime.

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Tokyo Story (Tokyo monogatari)

Director – Yasujiro Ozu – 1953 – Japan – Cert. U – 136m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan programme alongside 24 other Ozu films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Elderly couple the Hirayamas (Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama) live in the seaside town of Onomichi, a day’s train ride from Tokyo at the time the film was made. Of their five children, Kyoko (Kyoko Kagawa) still lives at home with them and works locally as a primary school teacher, two live in Tokyo, one in Osaka and one went missing in action during the war, presumed dead. The son and daughter in Tokyo, Koichi (So Yamamura) and Shige (Haruko Sugimura), work as a doctor and a beauty parlour owner respectively. Both are married while the missing son has left behind a widow Noriko (Setsuko Hara). The fifth child is a son Keizo (Shiro Osaki) in Osaka which is on the train between Onomichi and Tokyo. The couple want to visit their offspring and see how they are doing for themselves.… Read the rest

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Dark Water (Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara, 仄暗い水の底から)

Director – Hideo Nakata – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

*****

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. Currently available to view on Amazon Prime, BFI Player and Shudder.

Review originally published in Funimation UK to coincide with the UK Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release date 14/10/2016.

Jeremy Clarke on Hideo Nakata’s urban ghost story.

At the centre of Hideo Nakata’s film Dark Water (2002) is the powerful bond that exists between a mother and her child. Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of divorce proceedings and while all the financial arrangements have been agreed, the question of who gets custody of the couple’s daughter has yet to be settled. Yoshimi is assured that in cases where the child is less than six years old, the mother tends to get custody. However, her former husband is attempting to discredit her to prevent this happening.

This is all very stressful to Yoshimi. For the time being however she and her almost six year old daughter Iku (Rio Kanno) need to find a place to live.… Read the rest