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Features Live Action Movies

Dune

Director – Denis Villeneuve – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 155m

*****

A powerful family is exiled to a desert planet populated with giant sandworms as part of an interplanetary conspiracy to end their dynasty – out in cinemas on Friday, October 22nd

Frank Herbert’s sprawling novel Dune (1965) was read in the late 1960s and 1970s by any teenage boy with the slightest interest in science fiction and fantasy. It had (a little) space travel but more significantly it had alien worlds, notably the desert planet Arrakis on which 95% of the action takes place, and so ticked the SF box.

Then it had a whole ecology involving the planet’s occupants the Fremen, a drug known as ‘the Spice’, and giant sandworms, so it also ticked the fantasy box.

On top of this, it pitted dynasties – ‘Houses’ – against each other in a tale of interplanetary political intrigue.

The plot was unbelievably convoluted, spawning a lengthy series of sequels. I gave up around the fifth or sixth book. And yet, the first book possessed an almost mythic quality that my diminishing interest in the later volumes was unable to dispel.

The sheer quantity of plot was always going to be a challenge for a standalone movie.… Read the rest

Categories
Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m

*****

A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with another nun – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Christianity. The Church. Religion. Treat them the wrong way, and you can get into trouble. Horror The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), drama The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) and comedy Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1971) remain controversial. Lesbian nun relationship drama Benedetta may be about to join their ranks. Or perhaps times have moved on. The film is apparently based on a real 17th Century case.

As a young girl, Benedetta (Elena Plonka) claims to commune with the Divine – convincingly so, too, enough to suggest to a bandit gang about to rob her parents and her that a chirping bird is God’s voice, especially when said bird deposits excrement in the eye of the bandit leader who promptly returns a gold necklace to Benedetta’s mother.

On arrival at the convent in Pescia, Benedetta’s father (David Clavel) must pay the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling who seems to have cornered the market in Reverend Mothers judging by Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) a dowry to enable his daughter to become a novice, which suggests that the institution, like the wealthy Catholic Church under whose umbrella it exists, may have ignored Jesus’ injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Mauritanian

Director – Kevin Macdonald – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 129m

****

A pro bono lawyer defends a post-9/11 terrorist suspect in Guantánamo Bay against his US Army prosecutor – plays Curzon Home Cinema rental from Monday, October 4th

Based on a true story, this kicks off in Mauritania, North West Africa in November 2001 – as a title tells us, two months after 9/11. Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) walks on a beach then attends a Muslim wedding in Mauritania, to which he’s returned after living in abroad in Germany. During the celebrations, two local cops turn up and want him to come for questioning about his brother, whose current whereabouts he reminds them he doesn’t know. “The Americans are going crazy since the attacks two months ago,” they tell him. Momentarily alone, changing out of celebratory robes into something more casual, he erases his mobile phone contacts before agreeing to go with them.

Three years later, New Mexico law firm partner Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) learns of his disappearance and that the story has just broken in Der Spiegel that Slahi is currently allegedly being detained in Guantánamo Bay as “one of the organisers of 9/11”. The US government has recently stated that inmates have the right of ‘habeas corpus’ – if the evidence against them isn’t deemed sufficient to hold them in detention, they should be released.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

After Love

A girl in both ports

After Love
Directed by Aleem Khan
Certificate 12a, 89 minutes
Released in cinemas 4 June, on Blu-ray and BFI Player 23 August

*****

The South Coast. Mary (Joanna Scanlan) is married to Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia), a ferry captain who regularly travels to France and back in the course of work. They fell in love as teenagers. She is white British, he is south Asian. She has converted to Islam, his religion, and integrated into his Urdu-speaking family, a language she has herself learned.

One day he comes home from work, and dies while she’s making him a cup of tea. Going through his effects, she checks his mobile phone, and discovers messages from another woman. She goes over to France to confront Geneviève (Natalie Richard)… [read more]

Full theatrical review in Reform magazine.

NB Blu-ray contains the director’s earlier short Three Brothers (2014) plus an informative 46-minute zoom Q&A, trailer and teaser trailer, a stills gallery, and (first pressing only) a booklet containing writing on the film.

Trailer:

2021

Cinemas

Friday, June 4th

Blu-ray, BFI Player (subscription exclusive)

Monday, August 23rd.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Minari

Director – Lee Isaac Chung – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12A – 120m

***1/2

The Korean immigrant experience in the US as a nuclear family set up a farm in Arkansas – on VoD from Friday, April 2nd, in drive-in cinemas from Monday, April 12th and cinemas from Monday, May 17th

Jacob (Steven YeunBurning, Lee Chang-dong, 2018; Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017), Monica (Yeri Han) and their two kids Anne (Noel Kate Cho) and David, 7 (Alan S. Kim), drive out to their new home in Arkansas. She is a little horrified that the home is a trailer on wheels supported by a basic frame, but he is thrilled that they have land with the best dirt (i.e. for growing things) America has to offer. They are surrounded by a vast area of countryside and woodlands. They speak mostly Korean, but are fluent in English and occasionally use it.

Eschewing the advice of a local water diviner, Jacob builds a well in some low ground where trees are nearby, reasoning that there must be water there. “Never pay for anything you can get for free,” he tells the attentive David, reminding him that in California, where they’ve moved from, they had nothing.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Director – Kirsten Johnson – 2020 – US – 89m

*****

The director imagines the death of her dad in a film which celebrates both the man himself and the art of cinema – on Netflix worldwide from Friday, October 2nd

I was alerted to this movie both because not only was Johnson’s prior Cameraperson (2016) excellent but also the subject matter of this new film looked promising. Johnson spent three decades as the cameraperson on numerous documentaries (among them Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore, 2004 and Citizenfour, Laura Poitras, 2014) before making her previous feature out of interesting bits and pieces of footage she had lying around. Her new film is highly personal and almost fits into the home movies or personal diary school of film making – lent an inevitable, additional gravitas given Johnson’s prior artistic and technical career.

C. Richard Johnson (b. 1932 – ) is Kirsten Johnson’s dad. One day, like all of us, he is going to die. So his daughter decided that while he was still alive she would make a film about his dying, filming his possible deaths and staging his funeral service ahead of time.

There’s a huge contradiction at the heart of this idea.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

23 Walks

Director – Paul Morrison – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 102m

****1/2

A man over sixty meets a woman of around the same age over 23 walks with their respective dogs – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

Walk 1. Dave (Dave Johns) is out walking his Alsatian Tilly (Sheila) in a narrow, muddy alleyway one day when he runs into Fern (Alison Steadman) walking her terrier Henry (Dennis). Not that either they or we know their names at this stage – he is the bloke with the big dog without a lead that she has to get past, and she’s not impressed. He should have a lead, she says. He’s deeply apologetic.

Walk 2. He now has a lead and apologises for the previous day. They walk, they talk. Thus begin the eponymous 23 walks, with interruptions after a while mostly on Dave’s side of the story but a few on hers too. Both are in difficult relationship situations – his wife is catatonic and residing in a care home, the cost of which is putting him behind on the rent of his long-standing council home, her husband has run off with a younger model, his secretary. When we finally, briefly meet her husband, he appears cruel and uncaring in his treatment of his ex.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)

Abuse in church

By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)
Directed by François Ozon
Certificate 15, 137 minutes
London Film Festival, 5 and 6 October
Released 25 October

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Over two hours long, this gripping and hugely topical affair dramatises the scandal of child abuse at Catholic summer camps over 20 years ago in the diocese of Lyon, France. The case has shaken the Church there since it became public in recent years. Despite Father Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley) admitting his guilt, his superior, Cardinal Barbarin (François Marthouret) failed to curtail Preynat’s access to children thereby enabling his abuse of more victims in the ensuing years.

At a press conference, the cardinal uses the phrase ‘by the grace of God’ about the statute of limitations on many of the abuse cases. He is immediately criticised for the comment but it reveals how Barbarin is concerned more with protecting the institution of the Catholic Church than in caring for his flock.

Writer-director François Ozon constructs his narrative around three survivors… Read the rest

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Yes, God, YES

A plea for honesty

Yes, God, YES
Directed by Karen Maine
Certificate 15, 77 minutes
Released digitally on 17 August

Despite its provocative title suggesting a racy sex comedy about religion, this is actually a gentle independent film exploring the everyday inadequacies of American teenagers growing up within a conservative Catholic tradition. Essential life issues, including sex, truth telling, lying and religion, come up.

There’s a rumour going round Alice’s Catholic high school that she (Natalie Dyer) has been “salad tossing”. Having no idea what this means, she spends much of the film trying to find out. Impressed that Nina (Alisha Boe) has been on a four-day camp and seems to have her life together, Alice signs up.

The camp takes place at a Catholic retreat centre staffed by a nun and Father Murphy (Timothy Simons). Alice is immediately attracted to Chris (Wolfgang Novogratz), the camp leader and school football team captain. When Nina asks Alice to surrender her watch and mobile phone “because you’re on Jesus’ time”, Alice keeps her phone hidden to play games on it… [Read the rest]

I review Yes, God, YES for Reform.

Available to view on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Ava

Director – Sadaf Foroughi – 2017 – Iran – 102m

** 1/2

Available on VoD from Friday, August 21st

Ava (Mahour Jabbari) is a schoolgirl studying music – against the wishes of her parents, particularly her straight-laced and conservative mother Bahar (Bahar Noohian) who thinks music isn’t a real job and her daughter should consider a career that pays. Bahar is a hospital doctor and her husband Vahid (Vahid Aghapoor) is a freelance architect.

By way of a prank, Ava makes a bet with her friends and classmates Melody (Shayesteh Sajadi) and Shirin (Sarah Alimoradi) that she can get a date with Nima (Houman Hoursan) who is currently dating another classmate Yasi (Mona Ghiasi). Her mother hates the fact that Ava and Melody are best friends and spend a lot of time together, not least because Melody’s mum is a single parent.

Meanwhile, Bahar recounts a difficult hospital shift where a girl was found screaming wandering at night although she can’t bring herself to use words as explicit as “pregnancy” or “abortion”. This recent experience is in the back of her mind when she discovers one Saturday that Ava is not round at Melody’s but somewhere else. (Ava is spending time with Nima and misses the bus to get back.)… Read the rest