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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Getting It Back:
The Story of Cymande

Director – Tim MacKenzie-Smith – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 90m

****

How a promising, innovative black 1970s band failed to crack the UK music business, only for their music to take on a life of its own through various later, popular musical movements – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 16th and out on BFI Blu-ray, BFI Player Subscription, iTunes and Amazon Prime on Monday, 26 February

Film critics have their blind spots (there are films you’d assume I’ve seen which I never have) and so too do serious music listeners, among whom I number myself. Prior to this film, I had never heard of Cymande. That’s surprising to me, actually, because I started seriously listening to music in the 1970s and have never stopped (although, significantly, rap and hip-hop, which came later, never really did it for me). And Cymande, it turns out, were a band of the early 1970s. It’s not mentioned in this film, but they played a couple of sessions for legendary UK Radio One DJ John Peel where it’s likely I would have heard them, had I started listening regularly to his show earlier than 1974, after they recorded a session.

The narrative in MacKenzie-Smith’s documentary runs something like this: in the 1950s and 60s, Britain invited numerous Commonwealth citizens from Caribbean islands like Jamaica, St.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Light Falls

Director – Phedon Papamichael – 2023 – Georgia, Greece, Albania, Germany – Cert. none – 90m
*****

A Greek island, a lesbian couple from L.A., migrant Albanian workers, a racist cop, and an abandoned brutalist hotel… What could possibly go wrong? – terrific thriller premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Photographer Ella (Nini Nebieridze) and her girlfriend Clara (Elensio aka Elene Makharashvili), Georgians resident in L.A., are holidaying on a Greek island. On the same island, three Albanian youths – two brothers, the older Altin (Jurgen Marku) and the younger Eddy (Juxhin Plovishti), and their cocksure friend Veton (Silvio Goskova) – hang around in the hope of running into rich Western tourists they can fleece. Certainly, when a rich English couple drive up in a nice car and ask the where the nearest pharmacy is (the three don’t speak English), it looks like the three are going to do something awful to them. But then, the man sensibly drives off. The audience is left with a sense of dread.

The three Albanian men have just been turned away from a restaurant when the two L.A. girls enter, hang out, and learn from friendly locals where they can rent a 50cc Vesper (no licence needed).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Creator

Director – Gareth Edwards – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 133m

****

A widower finds himself protecting an AI in the form of a child as anti-AI North American forces wage a war on the Asian-Pacific countries where people have integrated with AI robots – out in UK cinemas on Thursday, September 28th

Over a decade ago, I was blown away by Gareth Edwards’ little indie British film marvel Monsters (2010) which broke all the accepted wisdom of film production. Based around a deceptively simple script concept, it was shot by a four-man crew and a two-man cast (plus anyone else who was around at the time) with lots of post-production VFX work added by the director himself.

That got him an agent and two big budget Hollywood franchise FX movies – the Godzilla reboot (2014) and the Star Wars movie Rogue One (2016). The former isn’t bad for a Hollywood movie, although I personally far prefer the Japanese-made Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno, 2016), while the latter is one of the better Star Wars films. However, neither quite possessed the quality that had got me so excited about Monsters.

I suspect Edwards feels the same way, because whilst he clearly relishes the chance to work with the palette of a huge Hollywood FX budget, on this his fourth film, as with Monsters, he has once again broken the rules – this time within a huge Hollywood FX budget film.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Elemental

Director – Peter Sohn – 2023 – US – Cert. PG – 109m

*****

Can a romance between a girl of fire and a boy of water succeed in a city populated by beings of earth, air, fire and water where entrenched separate ethnic identities run deep? – latest Pixar / Disney animation is out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 7th

In search of a better life, a young fire people couple Bernie (voice: Ronnie Del Carmen) and Cinder (voice: Shila Ommi) move to Element City, which is populated by not only fire people but also earth people, air people and water people. The couple find a cheap, rundown place to rent and Bernie turns it into The Fireplace, a store selling all manner of fire products from the fire people’s culture. Cinder gives birth to a girl Ember who grows into a twentysomething (voice: Leah Lewis). The plan is that when Ember is ready, she should take over the running of the store and let Bernie peacefully retire. Managing shop customers can be challenging, however, and while Ember is good at most aspects of the job, she has one flaw that lets her down – her fiery temper: she loses it with the most difficult customers.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

King:
A Filmed Record…
Montgomery
To Memphis

Directors – Sidney Lumet, Joseph L. Mankiewicz – 1969 – US – 181m

*****

Not-for profit documentary charts the career of non-violent, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King and the role he played in that movement – plays at a free screening 6 for 6.30 start at Union Chapel, Islington on Wednesday, March 29th

An attempt to document the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King from 1955 to 1968. If you had any doubt as to the subject matter, it goes straight in with a pro-Black Power activist (not Dr. King) making a speech to an enthusiastic black audience. Then it cuts to Dr. King, talking about power – but not the power of the Molotov Cocktail. “But,” he says, “we DO have a power. As old as the insights of Jesus of Nazareth and as modern as the techniques of… Gandhi.”

Dr. King was a great orator, and removing his words, cutting them down (in an attempt to distil their essence) and posting them in this verbal review loses much of the qualities seen in footage of the great man speaking, his presence, his phrasing, the way he uses pauses and so on. He must have been incredible to watch in the flesh as an orator, and while it’s true that seeing his oration captured on film is, inevitably, not the same as the experience of watching him live, the footage of him speaking is both astonishing and compelling.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Two Strangers
Who Meet
Five Times

Director – Marcus Markou – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 12m

****

A profound meditation on our common ground, our differences, and the factors which apparently come out of nowhere to can drive us apart or bring us together – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 10th

Life. Paths that unexpectedly cross. While cleverly doing exactly what it says on the title, this achieves a meditation on those meetings with other people that prove cathartic, those moments in which our lives can turn on a knife edge.

The first meeting we see, which is actually the second time they meet, involves two men at a cashpoint, one (Laurence Spellman, who is also one of the leads in the same director’s new feature The Wife And Her House Husband, 2022) losing it while the one in front of him (Sargon Yelda) takes what seems like a ridiculously long time to perform what should be a simple task of withdrawing some money. (Of course, there can be a reasonable explanation for this – the machine isn’t working, it swallowed the card, it’s been tampered with by fraudsters – but none of that applies on this occasion – the ATM appears to be working properly.)… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Free Chol Soo Lee

Directors – Julia Ha, Eugene Yi – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 83m

****

Imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, Korean American Chol Soo Lee became a figurehead for a protest movement, something he felt unable to live up to – out in UK cinemas on Friday, August 19th

In San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1973, Korean loner Chol Soo Lee was arrested and subsequently convicted for a gang murder. While it’s true he had foolishly borrowed a gun off a work colleague a few days previously and accidentally discharged it into his apartment wall giving himself a police record, he was not the murderer. He was identified on the flimsiest of premises by unreliable witnesses, possibly not helped by white cops who wanted to convict a felon for the crime and consign the case to history.

On what was to be his last journey through the outside world before many years in prison, he heard the Tower of Power song “You’re still a young man” on a car radio crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It resonated. As the years passed in prison, his mother abandoned him. He had fallen for a Japanese American girl he’d met Jean Ranko who subsequently told him in a letter that she had no romantic interest in him.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Where
The Crawdads
Sing

Director – Olivia Newman – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 125m

***1/2

A young woman who grew up alone in the North Carolina Marshlands is the prime suspect for a murder she may or may not have committed – out in cinemas on Friday, July 22nd

The body of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) is discovered having fallen to his death from an old, 63’ high viewing platform. But did he fall or was he pushed? The reclusive, local outcast and so-called ‘Marsh Girl’ Kya Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones) swiftly becomes the prime suspect after sheriffs find a red, woolly hat at her house, a fibre from which matches one found on Chase’s corpse.

As the investigation proceeds in the generic form of a whodunit by way of a courtroom drama, with the kindly Tom Milton (David Strathairn) as her self-appointed defence attorney against the state prosecutor in her jury trial, the narrative spilts into two separate strands, with the story of Kya’s personal history from childhood to the then present day of 1969 running in parallel until… well, refusing to divulge spoilers forbids me from saying, except that the final reel and the ending are arguably the most satisfying part of this engrossing movie.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Railway Children
Return

Director – Morgan Matthews – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 98m

***1/2

Almost four decades after the events in The Railway Children, three siblings are evacuated from the wartime bombing raids of Salford to the safer Yorkshire countryside– out in cinemas on Friday, July 15th

In 1944, with Britain at war and German bombing intensifying, children are being evacuated from the cities to the countryside, leaving their parents to live with substitute parents and / or families for the duration. Thus, in Salford, their mother puts Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Angela (Jessica Baglow) and Ted (Zac Cudby) on a train to the small country town of Oakworth in Yorkshire. Arriving with many other children, they wait to be assigned to a family.

However, because there are three of them – and possibly also because Angela has got rid of the smart dress that her mother made her wear for a more comfortable outfit – no family is forthcoming. So grandmother Bobbie (Jenny Agutter, reprising her role from The Railway Children, Lionel Jeffries, 1970) persuades her daughter Annie (Sheridan Smith), the local headmistress, to take the trio even though the latter isn’t sure they can manage three, and the three children move in to their new home, The Three Chimneys.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Limbo

Director – Ben Sharrock – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 15+ – 103m

****1/2

Immigrants are holed up in a rundown house on a bleak Scottish island as they await letters granting their requests for asylum in the UK on MUBI from Thursday, September 23rd

A smiley chalked on a blackboard. A woman’s austere face suggesting exactly the opposite. Instructors Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard) are demonstrating how a man should behave towards a woman dancing to pop music. Helga’s top looks far too proper and her skirt both far too formal and long for a good night out, as if she were dressed for work in an office. Boris is admonished for first resting his head on Helga’s clothed breast then putting his hands on her bottom. “Now, can anyone tell me what Boris did wrong,” she asks the group of stunned men watching, seated.

Behind her on the blackboard are the words, “Cultural Awareness 101. Sex. Is a smile an invitation?”

Welcome (or maybe not) to the world of an asylum seeker from Syria placed on a remote Scots island. Welcome (or maybe not) to the UK’s Hostile Environment.

A rudimentary training centre.… Read the rest