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Emergency Declaration (Bisang Seoneon, 비상선언)

Director – Han Jae-rim – 2021 – South Korea – 147m

*****

A rogue biochemist smuggles a deadly virus onto a commerical flight and releases it, leaving those on board fighting for survival– from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

At the same time as his wife has had enough and decides to fly off to Hawaii on her own for a break, Police Sgt. Koo (Song Kang-ho from Parasite, 1019; Snowpiercer, 2013; Memories Of Murder, 2003; all Bong Joon ho) finds himself investigating an upload to the internet which is probably a hoax in which a man threatens a terrorist attack on a plane. He tracks this man to his apartment from which the open door emits the smell of putrefaction. A search of the premises reveals a corpse sealed in polythene who has died of burst blood vessels caused by a virus.

Meanwhile at Incheon Airport, the man, Ryu Jin-seok (Yim Si-wan, singer of huge K-pop band KZ-A) has a run in with a booking agent who won’t tell him what the busiest route is, insulting her. Next, he enters the toilets to open and insert a phal into his armpit but is spotted from a cubicle by young girl Soo-min (Kim Bo-min) using the wrong toilets.… Read the rest

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The Lost City

Directors – Aaron Nee, Adam Nee – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 112m

***

A jaded woman’s romantic adventure novelist and her cover model find themselves in a real life jungle straight out of one of her books – out in cinemas on Wednesday, April 13th

Ever since her archaeologist husband died five years ago, novelist of trashy, erotic women’s adventure fiction Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) has had writer’s block. Her publishers love her books because they sell in huge volume, but she’s really an archaeology nerd who hates the novels she’s written. A friendly nudge from her editor Beth (Da’vine Joy Randolph), however, helps her complete another one, so it’s on to the promotional tour, something else Loretta hates.

She’s told exactly what to do by Beth and new social media manager Allison (Patti Harrison) This time round Loretta is required to wear a one-piece, cleavage-revealing, purple sequinned outfit that she (understandably) really doesn’t like as she is interviewed once again before fan audiences by male model Alan (Channing Tatum), whose appearance alongside her on the front cover of her books has helped propel her (and him) to stardom, effectively casting them as her heroine Angela and sidekick Dash.… Read the rest

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The Battle At Lake Changjin II aka Water Gate Bridge (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖之水门桥)

Director – Tsui Hark – 2022 – China – Cert. 15 – 153m

**

Ill-considered sequel to box office barnstorming, Chinese war movie fails to match the emotional engagement and excitement of the original – out in cinemas on Friday, February 11th

After the exciting and energetic original, this sequel is a disappointment. It has the same expertise of CG special effects as its predecessor. However the cast is cut down, many of the memorable characters having died heroically in the first film, and there’s no attempt to replace them. Similarly, the spectacular locations are fewer in number because there’s no journey from home through different regions, so this has a smaller geographical palette to play with.

The cast of characters issue would be easy enough to fix within the war genre: members of a military unit die, others come to the fore to replace them in the vacuum created. But no, here all we get are People’s Volunteer Army (PVA) 7th Company commander Wu Qianli (Wu Jing) and his younger brother Wu Wanli (Jackson Lee) and no real attempt to further develop their relationship under fire. The two characters are just there, and the audience is expected to carry over their emotional investment from the first film without the second one providing any reason for doing so.… Read the rest

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The Battle At Lake Changjin (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖)

Directors – Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark – 2021 – China – Cert. 15 – 176m

*****

Chinese war movie which has barnstormed the global box office does exactly what it says on the tin – out in cinemas on Friday, November 19th

There is a history of war films with a cast of thousands being directed by several (usually three) directors in an attempt to portray campaigns with huge military logistics on the screen. Probably the best known are The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernard Wicki, 1962) about the World War Two Allied invasion of Normandy and Tora! Tora! Tora! (Richard Fleischer, Toshio Matsuda, Kinji Fukasaku, 1970) about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Both of those Western (and, as it happens, Twentieth Century Fox) movies presented both sides of the conflict by hiring directors from the different countries concerned.

The big difference between them and Chinese global box office phenomenon The Battle At Lake Changjin is that although the latter film deals with a conflict in which the Chinese are pitted against the Americans, all three directors are Chinese. Tsui (Zu Warriors, 1983; Once Upon A Time In China, 1991) at least has some working knowledge of America, having studied film in Texas.… Read the rest