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Features Live Action Movies

Sting

Director – Kiah Roache-Turner – 2024 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 91m

***1/2

A girl traps a venomous spider and cares for it as a pet, but as she feeds it, it grows… and grows… and gets out… – into UK cinemas on Friday, May 31st

Helga (Noni Hazlehurst) is hearing strange noises in her Brooklyn apartment. She doesn’t remember so good, however, helpfully pinned to the wall by the phone is her name and address. So when she phones Frank the pest exterminator (Jermaine Fowler), she can read those details to him. It’s probably a rat, he tells her. Soon he is at the door of the block, asking her to buzz him in. But inside the apartment, he realises this particular bug may be more than he bargained for.

Flash back to four days earlier. A hand-sized meteor plunges to Earth to crash through a window into a doll’s house in the same apartment block. It is a tiny pod not unlike the ones in Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979). It opens, hatching a small spider, which looks huge until we realise it’s in a small scale doll’s house, not outside in the apartment proper. The spider is found by Charlotte (Alyla Brown from Furiosa: A Mad Max Story, George Miller, 2024) who empties out her money jar, the one with the screw lid, to make a home for it, feeding it with the roaches that infest the apartment.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Inventor

Directors – Jim Capobianco, Pierre-Luc Granjon – 2023 – US, France, Ireland – Cert. PG – 100m

****

Towards the end of his life, inventor Leonardo da Vinci goes to live in France under the patronage of the King – stop frame / drawn animation composite is out in the UK’s Vue cinemas on Friday, March 8th

Rome, Italy, 1516. Leonardo da Vinci (voice: Stephen Fry) happily shows off a giant optical system of magnifying glasses for observing the heavens to his assistant Francesco Melzi (voice: Angelino Sandri). Francesco retorts that Leonardo ought to be worried about the Pope who has spies everywhere (and sure enough, there are eyes watching from nearby peepholes). Leonardo’s other assistant, the hulking, mute Zoroastro sources corpses for him, on which the curious Leonardo performs dissections and studies what he finds through making drawings in his quest for find the animated spirit of man, a search which, in dreams and visions, often leads him into confrontation with a mysterious, gargantuan, dark-hooded figure.

The inventor is summoned to Pope Leo X (voice: Matt Berry) who wants to know, why can’t Leonardo just make pretty things? The arrival of a messenger whose helmet is half crushed by a cannonball leads Leo to suggest Leonardo fashion him machines of war.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s
Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Mad God

Director – Phil Tippett – 1987-2021 – US – 83m

*****

A man in a gas mask descends into a dark, dangerous world on a mysterious mission, encountering strange creatures, humanoids and societal constructs along the way – stop-frame epic 34 years in the making as of Tuesday, June 28th, has become the most watched premier of 2022 on Shudder, where it plays in both the UK and the US from Thursday, June 16th; also plays London’s Prince Charles Cinema Tuesday. July 5th to Friday, July 8th and from Monday, December 5th is on Blu-ray, DVD and digital

My immediate reaction after watching this was two-fold. On the one hand, wow!!! On the other, how on earth do I put the experience of watching this into words? Mad God definitely has a structure, yet what’s amazing about it is the visuals, the animation, the effects. Even though I’m familiar with the work of its director Phil Tippett (as one of the heirs apparent to stop-motion maestro Ray Harryhausen in the world of visual effects – career highlights include RoboCop, 1987; Jurassic Park, 1993, Starship Troopers, 1997) this film is something altogether different (even if its roots can be seen in his VFX work).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies Music

Annette

Director – Leos Carax – 2021 – France, US – Cert. 15 – 141m

****1/2

Musical conceived and composed by Sparks plays out as a very dark opera ending in tragedy – on MUBI from Friday, November 26th

Although billed as a musical, this may actually be closer to opera given that even though it starts as a story about two people deeply in love, it veers into very dark territory.

And yet framing all that, and underscoring it throughout, is the sheer pleasure of writing / composing songs… and, for that matter, performing them. The opening song is So May We Start while the closer, as the credits roll, is It’s The End. (For added enjoyment, watch 90% of the audience leave before the last song starts. Or in my case, 10% of my fellow critics.)

The former starts with the band, the brothers Mael (singer Russell and keyboard player / composer Ron, profiled in recent documentary The Sparks Brothers, Edgar Wright, 2021) and a backing band in a recording studio in an invitation for the proceedings to get going, swiftly joined by the film’s two leads, while the latter ends with seemingly the entire movie cast and crew walking through the countryside hoping we’ve enjoyed the show and asking us to tell our friends if we did so.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Pinocchio

Director – Matteo Garrone – 2019 – Italy – Cert. PG – 125m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 14th, on BFI Player rental from Monday, December 14th

Impoverished woodcarver Geppetto (Roberto Benigni) decides to make the greatest puppet the world has ever seen, tour the world with it and make his fortune. A wood merchant lets him have a log because it seems to have a life of its own. Unaware of its animate properties, Geppetto begins carving his puppet, a life-sized representation of the son he’s never had.

After he starts talking to it as its “Babba”, he is surprised when the puppet (nine year old Frederico Ielapi) talks back. Geppetto names him Pinocchio. No sooner has he carved the feet than Pinocchio runs out of Geppetto’s workshop to discover the world. In many ways, that defines the character and the story to come. The innocent Pinocchio is forever in pursuit of his own gratification, prey to the perils of the world around him and initially devoid of any sense of morality, something he struggles to learn throughout the course of the story in his quest to become a real boy.

There have been numerous versions of Pinocchio in film, television and theatre since it first appeared as a written serial in an Italian newspaper in 1881.… Read the rest