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Features Live Action Movies

Master Cheng (Mestari Cheng)

Director – Mika Kaurismäki – 2019 – Finland – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

A Chinese chef turns up at a restaurant in a remote Finnish village and impresses the locals with his cooking – charming romantic drama is out in cinemas on Friday, March 11th

A restaurant in a remote part of the Finnish countryside. Cheng (Chu Pak Hong from My Prince Edward, Norris Wang, 2019) and small boy Niu Niu (Lucas Hsuan) walk into the local restaurant where the former asks for Fongtron. The owner Sirkka (Anna-Maija Tuokko) hasn’t heard of Fongtron and can’t help. He asks customers the same question, but they don’t know either. Cheng barely speaks Finnish, which scarcely helps. He doesn’t look like he’s going away, and when he asks if there’s a hotel, Sirkka points him towards a room that’s available. She attempts to feed the pair before closing up, but the mobile phone-obsessed Niu Niu won’t touch her Finnish sausage and mash.

And he’s not the only one: When a day or so later, a coachload of Chinese tourists turn up, they’re not very interested either. Cheng, sitting at a table, immediately springs to Sirkka’s aid and parleys with the Chinese.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

KIBA: The Fangs Of Fiction (Damashie No Kiba, 騙し絵の牙)

Director – Daihachi Yoshida – 2020 – Japan – 112m

*****

Forward thinkers take on the conservative old guard within a Japanese publishing corporation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

Megumi Takano (Mayu Matsuoka from One Night, Kazuya Shirashi, 2019; Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018; A Silent Voice, Naoko Yamada, 2016; Lesson Of Evil, Takashi Miike, 2012; Love Exposure, Sion Sono, 2008), daughter of local bookstore owner Takano (Shinya Tsukamoto), is as dedicated an editor as you’ll find anywhere in publishing. Alas, she lacks the political savvy needed to survive in its ruthless, corporate, dog-eat-dog world. When the owner of the publishing company Kunpu which employs her dies unexpectedly, she finds herself caught up in the machinations of a large organisation where some employees resist change while others plan to completely reinvent the business model to ensure the company’s survival, possibly at the expense of some of its employees.

Thus it is that new CEO Tamatsu (Koichi Sato from Fukushima 50, Setsuro Wakamatsu, 2020; Sukiaki Western Django, Takashi Miike, 2007; Where The Last Sword Is Drawn, Yojiro Takita, 2002) comes in with plans to restructure the company.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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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Features Live Action Movies

The Servant

Director – Joseph Losey – 1963 – UK – Cert. 12 – 115m

*****

A highly capable working class manservant slowly takes control of his foppish, upper class master’s life – out in cinemas on Friday, September 10th

Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) enters the curiously unlocked Chelsea house of Tony (James Fox) to interview for the position of manservant. He finds the unkempt Tony asleep in a chair. He seems to fit Tony’s bill and gets the job. Tony got the house very cheap, although it’s in need of repair and decoration. Barrett has any number of useful suggestions, but Tony overrides one or two of them. A servant should know their place, after all.

At a club Tony tells his date Susan (Wendy Craig) that he’s involved in clearing jungle to build three cities. When he brings her back to the house, she finds her attempts at both romantic intimacy and imposing her ideas on his home consistently thwarted by Barrett’s intrusions.

Barrett secures a job for his “sister” Vera (Sarah Miles) as a maid. She is actually his lover. And she sets about seducing Tony. All of this will come to a head, with Tony throwing the pair of them out.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Wendy

Director – Benh Zeitlin – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 111m

*****

A bold re-imagining of Peter Pan told through the eyes of Wendy which is unlike any other version of the story you’re likely to see – out in cinemas on Friday, August 13th

Her mother runs a fast and furious restaurant. Wendy (Tommie Lynn Milazzo) crawls along the long tables.

Boys play on trains on the nearby tracks outside.

Her brothers James (Gavin Naquin) and Douglas (Gage Naquin) come out to play on the jukebox, but quickly get thrown out for causing disruption. Through the night the goods trains pass. There’s a spark. Wendy, slightly older now (Devin France) sees something atop a train. A boy. She runs outside to chase the train. Her mother’s voice calls her back in.

The fast trains pass. One day she is on one, riding the rails. The boy (Dwight Henry) is in the freight car. He tells them to stand close to the open boxcar door. The train crosses a bridge over water. He pushes them out. They’re in the water.

Then they’re all in the boat, crossing the ocean to the island, Mother. They land. Beach. Forest. Geysers erupt.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

One Cut Of The Dead In Hollywood (Kamera Wo Tomeruna!, supin-ofu: Hariuddo daisakusen, カメラを止めるな!スピンオフ ハリウッド大作戦)

Director – Yuya Nakaizumi – 2019 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 57m

The first 16 minutes **1/2; the rest ***1/2

A zombie film being shot in one long, single take and set in a restaurant in Hollywood is attacked by zombies… or is it? – out as an extra on a One Cut Of The Dead Hollywood Edition Blu-ray on Monday, May 31st

Spoiler alert. The film is basically a copy of the first film, slightly tweaked but not really adding anything much to it. Similarly, this review is basically a copy of the review of the first film.

With a title that translates literally as “Don’t Stop The Camera! Spin-off: a great strategy for Hollywood!”, this is another loving homage to both the movie shot in one take and to the zombie movie. Or so it appears for its first 16 minutes, after which it turns into a comic drama about film making.

Let’s start where the film does, with its first 16 minutes. “6 Months after the tragedy, Chinatsu is a waitress in Hollywood. Struck dumb, she died her hair blond (sic) and renamed herself Holly.” Thus reads the opening title as waitress Holly / Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) ignores customer comments about her inability to speak.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Bori (나는보리)

Director – Kim Jin-yu – 2017 – South Korea – Cert. – 109m

***

Pre-teenager Bori feels alienated from her little brother, mum and dad because she’s the only one who isn’t deaf available to watch from 10am-11pm on Thursday November 12th as the Online Closing Gala of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF).

Pre-teenager Bori (Kim Ah-song) lives by the sea with her close and loving family – a dad who often works nights on ships, a devoted mum, a little brother Jeungwoo (Lee Rin-ha) who’s brilliant offensive futsal player. Her best friend Eun-jeong (Hwang Yoo-rim) is the daughter of the delivery man at the local takeaway restaurant, whose very reasonably priced black bean noodle dishes the family avail themselves of often. Bori’s dad, mum and little brother are all deaf, so at home they communicate in sign language.

The family go to a firework display where Bori slips away from the edges of a crowded tent where she can’t really see anything and goes to talk to an immigrant stallholder about his jewellery. But then she can’t find the family and after wandering around, hands herself in at the local police station where her family later find her.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Over The Moon

Directors – Glen Keane, John Kahrs – 2020 – US, China – Cert. U – 95m

*****

A girl bereaved of her mother builds a rocket to the moon to prove the goddess Chang’e is real and convince her father not to re-marry – animated feature in cinemas from Friday, October 16th and on Netflix from Friday, October 23rd.

In Chinese mythology, archer Houyi’s wife Chang’e consumed an immortality potion then went to the moon where she mourned her lost love. The tale is also the basis of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival celebrated in many countries in the Far East. Using the mythology as a backdrop, the late screenwriter Audrey Wells crafted an extraordinary story about a girl who fails to properly deal with bereavement when her mother dies.

The figure of Chang’e acts as a metaphor for Fei Fei (voiced by Cathy Ang) who wants her dad (voice: John Cho) to be faithful to his late wife. When dad introduces a new mum Mrs. Zhong (Sandra Oh), with a new and irritating little brother Chin (Robert G. Chiu) in tow, she decides that to convince him to remain true to mum, she must go to the moon and prove Chang’e real, which will convince her dad to do the right thing.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Air Doll (Kuki ningyo)

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2009 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 111m

****

Fantasia Film Festival 2020 virtual edition from Thursday, August 20.

An unusual film for director Kore-eda, closer to After Life (1998) than almost anything else he’s done because of both fantasy element and whimsical tone. An inflatable sex doll is affectionately cared for by its owner Hideo (Itsujo Itao) who has sex with it at night. He has named the doll Nozomi after a former girlfriend. One morning when he’s at work, Nozomi wakes up as a flesh and blood woman played by Doona Bae, goes to the window and feels rainwater on her hands.

Nozomi tries on some of her (sexualised fetish) clothes, settling on a chambermaid costume. She heads out into the world, where everyone is busy getting to school or work. She follows an old widow (Sumiko Fuji) around, then a party of young schoolchildren. She passes an old man in a park. Eventually she stumbles into the video store where Junichi (Arata) works. The shop appears to her as a wonderland and she lands herself the counter assistant’s job. However she’s not very good at it, her experience of life being virtually nil and her knowledge of movies even less.… Read the rest