Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Mars Express
(Mars Express)

Director – Jérémie Périn – 2023 – France – Cert. none – 85m

*****

In the 23rd Century, a private investigator and her resurrected robot assistant go to Mars to investigate the murder of a cybernetics student – from the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The difference between humans and machines is one of the great themes of science fiction from Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) to Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995). Mars Express takes its name from an Earth-Mars shuttle which, following a bravura action / chase sequence early on, not unlike the one at the start of Ghost in the Shell, is used by private investigator Aline Ruby (voice: Léa Drucker from Custody, Xavier Legrand, 2017) and her assistant Carlos Rivera (voice: Daniel Njo Lobé) to transport a captured suspect from Earth to Mars where, it transpires on arrival, the relevant paperwork to detain their prisoner has been wiped from their on-person devices and internet-accessible office, meaning they are forced to release their prisoner. The narrative is littered with cleverly thought out ideas like this.

The setting is the 23rd Century and mostly Mars, where the pair are hired to search for a second year cybernetics student who has gone missing.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Robot Dreams

Director – Pablo Berger – 2023 – Spain – Cert. U tbc– 102m

*****

In need of a companion, Dog builds Robot – but then, disaster strikes – charming, dialogue-free 2D animation plays the 2023 London Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, October 4th until Sunday, October 15th, and will be out in UK cinemas sometime in the new year

The 1980s. Brooklyn. The East Village. Bored with endless, cook from frozen macaroni cheese meals from the fridge and channel hopping or playing both parts of computerised table tennis against himself, Dog longs for a companion. To this end, he buys a DIY self-assembly kit from which he builds Robot. For a short period, the pair are inseparable, walking and eating hot dogs together in Central Park, but then disaster strikes after Robot swims in the sea when the pair visit the beach. When it’s time to go home, his battery power is depleted and he can’t move.

So Dog has to leave incapacitated Robot there. He buys books on robots from the local bookstore to work out how to repair his friend. Alas, on arrival at the beach, he discovers it’s closed since yesterday was the last day of the Summer season.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Smoking
Causes Coughing
(Fumer Fait Tousser)

Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2022 – France – Cert. 15 – 77m

*****

Saving the world is taking its toll on the group of superheroes known as the Tobacco Force, so their leader sends them on a week-long retreat to rebuild their team spirit – out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 7th

An ordinary family are on a car journey when the boy (Tanguy Mercier) asks his parents (David Marsais and Julia Faure) to stop. Again. They stop, He gets out to pee, but looking over the fence at which he’s about to do the deed, he can’t believe his eyes and rushes back to the car to ask if he can borrow dad’s binoculars. It’s only the start of the film, we’ve still no idea of what it’s about, and already director Quentin Dupieux (Deerskin, 2019) is upending whatever expectations we might have had to hilarious effect.

What is beyond the fence is this: a drop down to a beach. And on that beach, the group of superheroes known as the Tobacco Force is battling a giant turtle. This probably conjures in your mind an image of expensive, Hollywood CG effects. But no. What we have here is extremely low budget.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Transformers:
Rise
Of The
Beasts

Director – Steven Caple Jr. – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 127m

*

A giant, planet-eating entity comes to earth in search of a mysterious key which the Transformers must prevent him from obtaining – out in UK cinemas on Thursday, June 8th

The posters for this latest Transformers instalment promised something a little different: a group of animal robots made up, like the original Transformers, of disparate parts. What was their purpose? Would they transform into vehicles? Well, the answer is, no, they just run around like big robotic animals and never transform into cars or anything else. Why bother?, you might ask. According to the press handouts, they convert from less conspicuous animals, but if that occurred in the film, I must have missed it.

These robotic animals, who include the gorilla Optimal Prime (voice: Ron Perlman), whose name echoes that of series regular Transformer Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen, who has voiced this character through all the movies and the original TV series), the eagle Airazor (voice: Michelle Yeoh) and the cheetah Cheetor (voice: Tongayi Chirisa)…

…belong to a race whose planet is threatened by the villain of the piece, a larger than planet-sized Transformer villain named Unicron (voice: Colman Domingo) – does he transform into anything?… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Old Man
Movie
Lactopalypse!
(Vanamehe Film)

Directors – Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi – 2019 – Estonia – Cert. 15 – 88m

***

A farmer and his grandchildren must recapture his unmilked cow before its udders burst into lactopalypse – stop-frame epic is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 2nd and currently screening in previews

Estonia’s answer to Britain’s Shaun The Sheep, this feature spin-off from long-running, popular, puppet animation TV comedy series Vanamehe Multikas (Old Man Cartoon) shows Estonian sensibilities to be very different from those of the British. This is aimed at not as you might expect children but rather the young adult market – it’s stuffed full of sexual innuendo and toilet or other bodily function humour. Since I can imagine it being an uproarious experience with the right audience, it’s a shame to have first seen this online rather than in a packed movie theatre owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bookended by black and white newsreel of Old Milker’s disastrous failure to stop a cow’s unmilked udders exploding into a lactopolypse complete with milk mushroom cloud, the plot has three kids sent to stay with their grandpa on his farm for the summer. Their family car back seat introduction shows us teenage boy Priidik and girl Aino constantly on their mobile phones while their pre-teen boy sibling Mart has built an incredible, fully functioning, miniature robot cow for grandpa.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Plan 75

Director – Chie Hayakawa – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 113m

**1/2

Dystopian drama Plan 75 posits a plan whereby Japanese people can voluntarily have themselves terminated after age 75 and examines some of the resultant social fallout – out in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, May 12th

Sedate classical piano music is playing on the soundtrack. The image – out of focus, could be looking down a corridor. After a long wait, a man in a T-shirt and jeans walks, in focus, into picture foreground. There appears to be blood on his arm and he is carrying a shotgun. Ahead of him, as it now comes into focus, the corridor floor is sparsely scattered with objects: a cup and a bowl, an old person’s walking stick with four legs, something else which we can’t quite make out. He washes at the sink. Another corridor – a fallen walking stick, a pair of slippers, an abandoned bathrobe or perhaps a towel, a collapsed, half-folded wheelchair, wheel still spinning. T-shirt and jeans with shotgun descends the stairs. After a contentious voice over, T-shirt and jeans waits a long while, then points the barrel of the shotgun at his head and uses his feet to pull the trigger.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Epic Tails
(Pattie
Et La Colère
De Poséidon)

Director – David Alaux, Eric Tosti, Jean-François Tosti – 2022 – France – Cert. U – 95m – English language dubbed version

****

The adventurous mouse Pattie and her cautious, adoptive parent cat Sam help an ageing Jason and his skeletal Argonaut crew in a voyage to save the city of Yolcos from the wrath of Poseidon – out in UK cinemas in an English language dubbed version on Friday, February 10th

In Greek myth, forever immortalised in the cinema in Jason And The Argonauts (1963, Stop-Frame Animation & FX: Ray Harryhausen), the heroic Jason brings the Golden Fleece to his home city of Yolcos which then enjoys the protection of the Zeus against the unruly antics of the rest of the Gods in Mount Olympus. This French, animated children’s film, in which the two lead characters are anthropomorphised animals and which is released in the UK in an English language dubbed version, begins in that city around half a century later when Jason has reached a ripe old age and all his faithful Argonauts have died.

All the voice credits in the following review refer to the English language voice cast. Animation is different from live action, where dubbing can generally ruin actors’ performances in films, since in animation, voices and visual are created separately then married together.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Alienoid
(Oegye+in 1bu,
외계+인)

Director – Choi Dong-hoon – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 142m

*****

In Part One of a proposed double feature, aliens incarcerate prisoners in human brains and time travel between present day and fourteenth century Korea and mayhem ensures – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

The first film of a two part adventure, which would be more sensibly released as Alienoid – Part One (which may already be the case in some territories), this revolves around multiple protagonists in two separate timelines divided by six or seven centuries. In the fourteenth century, Guard, who morphs between true robot and fake human appearances not unlike the T-1000 of Terminator 2 Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991), and his even more confusing companion Thunder, who is sometimes a car, sometimes a flying pod and sometimes any number of human manifestations (both / all played by Kim Woo-bin), fail to save a woman from dying after an alien escapes incarceration within her brain, however Thunder rescues the woman’s baby.

The pair travel forward in time to raise Lee Ahn (Choi Yu-ri) in the twenty-first century where she sees what she’s not supposed to: the impregnation process whereby alien prisoners are incarcerated in human brains, a memory wiped immediately afterwards from the humans used for this purpose, meaning people wander around not knowing there are aliens trapped inside their heads.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

After Yang

Director – Kogonada – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 96m

****1/2

In the distant future, a couple must come to terms with the loss of the eldest child, actually an A.I. purchased as an ethnically programmed companion for their adopted South East Asian daughter – SF mystery drama is on Sky Cinema from Thursday, September 22nd

Memory is one of the great themes of cinema because when you point a moving image camera at someone, you capture and preserve their moving image for posterity. (Something similar happens when you record the sound of someone’s voice. Or even if you write down their words on paper, a simpler, more primitive form of recording.) Memory is also one of the elements which defines us as human beings.

Full marks, then, to director (actually writer, director, editor) Kogonada for taking the short story Saying Goodbye To Yang by Alexander Weinstein and expanding it into a feature. As described in the parlance of the distant future world in which this is set, Yang is a technosapien (i.e. a robot), a purchased elder sibling of a family comprising father Jake (Colin Farrell), mother Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja).

Mika is adopted, and her ever so Hollywood liberal parents – he a white man who has built a business around his passion for tea, she a black woman who is a hard-working, highly motivated high-flier in a demanding corporate business that’s never really defined – are concerned that she connect with her South East Asian heritage.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Brian And Charles

Director – Jim Archer – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 91m

***1/2

In rural Wales, an eccentric inventor builds a robot companion out of odds and ends, contends with the local bully and finds love – out in cinemas on Friday, July 8th, previews from Wednesday, July 6th

Welcome to the reclusive world of Brian (David Earl), an inventor in rural Wales who builds things in his shed. Scouring the area for piles of discarded junk, he repurposes bits and pieces in such objects as a flying cuckoo clock – if you’re wondering what the time is, you just look up in the sky and it tells you – which has wings, is powered by a bicycle and looks like it’ll never actually fly. June (Cara Chase), the friendly owner of the local store, is perturbed to see him trailing nets behind shoes.

Finding a mannequin head, he combines it with a washing machine for a body to create an ungainly, seven foot tall robot, Charles (Chris Hayward). Charles has an insatiable habit to finding out things about the world around him, and would ideally like to go travelling. Brian doesn’t think this is a good idea because the world isn’t a nice place.… Read the rest