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

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Lightyear

Director – Angus MacLane – 2021 – US – Cert. PG – 107m

**1/2

Stranded on a hostile planet, Buzz Lightyear sets out on a series of missions which eventually lead to his first confrontation with the evil Emperor Zurg – plays in the Annecy Animation Festival 2022 which is taking place in a 100% on-site edition this year right now as a Screening Event on Friday, June 17th, and opens in UK cinemas the same day.

A caption at the start explains that this was the favourite film of child protagonist Andy (from Pixar’s Toy Story franchise) and the reason he got a Buzz Lightyear toy in the first place. Other than that, though, this is a completely separate and self-enclosed film.

As the literal meaning of its title implies, Lightyear delivers a narrative that races through vast periods of time at a stretch, so that we and ace space pilot Buzz Lightyear (voice: Chris Evans) and his colleague Alisha Hawthorne (voice: Uzo Aduba) land their spaceship on an unexplored planet which turns out to be populated with hostile life-forms, specifically (1) plant tendrils which burst out of the planet’s surface and try to drag anything they can back under the ground and (2) giant, flying bugs.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Burning Sea (Nordsjøen)

Director – John Andreas Andersen – 2022 – Norway – Cert. 12 – 104m

***

An underwater technician attempts to rescue her lover who is trapped and probably dead on an oil rig amidst impending ecological disaster – out on digital on Monday, May 30th

The Norwegian title translates literally as North Sea, so renaming the film The Burning Sea makes it sound more dramatic and ups the ante considerably. That increased selling point comes at a price, though. Instead of an oil rig disaster movie, you’re now expecting a sea on fire movie which doesn’t happen ’til the last reel. Still, director Andersen’s films include the impressive disaster movie The Quake (2018) while the writing team of Harald Rosenløw-Eeg (The Quake, 2018; The Wave, Roar Uthaug, 2015) and Lars Gudmestad (Headhunters, Morten Tyldum, 2011) looks promising enough. Unlike those films, however, this one lapses fairly quickly into cliché.

It spends its first 10 minutes largely on romantic drama with Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp from the wonderful Ninjababy, Yngvild Sve Flikke, 2021) content to be living her life with lover Stian (Henrik Bjelland) and his pre-teen son Odin (Nils Elias Olsen) at a distance rather than living together permanently with them.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Dance Features Live Action Movies Music

Coppelia

Directors – Jeff Tudor, Steven de Beul, Ben Tesseur – 2021 – Netherlands, Germany, Belgium – Cert. U – 82m

****

People in an idyllic town must thwart the nefarious plans of a mad scientist in this extraordinary amalgam of dance, live action performers and animation – out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, April 1st

This isn’t the first movie to combine live action with animation nor will it be the last and while it has numerous echoes of movies intentional or otherwise, it’s very much its own vision. First and foremost a dance piece but far from mere ‘filmed dance’, it will appeal as much to admirers of the twin arts of cinema and animation as to devotees of dance. Being entirely devoid of verbal language, it’ll attract lovers of silent cinema too. (One can imagine the film shown mute with a live orchestra playing the score.)

The lack of verbal language means that the characters are never named (just like in a ballet where you’d refer to a cast list in an accompanying programme) although tags for a number of them are obvious – several shop owners include a bicycle repair man (Daniel Camargo), a florist, a hairdresser (Jan Kooijman) and a baker of bread and cakes (Irek Mukhamedov) while a dance studio hosts a ballet teacher (Igoné de Jongh) and her child student troupe.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Prayer (Gan Ho-Joong, 간호중)

Director – Min Kyu-dong – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12a – 108m

*****

Just how capable are caregiver androids of looking after their terminally ill patients? – thought-provoking science fiction from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

In a vast, multi-storey building complex, end of life patients are attended by Caregivers, lifelike female androids programmed to perform all the necessary tasks of palliative care, their faces modelled after their purchaser. Manufactured by the German TRS Corporation, they come in a variety of models, including an entry-level type with only basic functions and a more advanced models which can cope better with patients’ needs.

One patient is surrounded by Christian friends of his wife loudly singing praise and worship songs, to the annoyance of those living in nearby units. Adherents of the Christian religion play quite a significant part in the narrative, with nun Sister Sabina (Ye Soo-jung) going round putting stickers wherever she can in these complexes inviting people to phone her if they want to pray.

They might well want to take up her offer. A lot of the patients’ relatives / carers could do with some sort of assistance. Mrs. Choi (Yum Hye-ran from Default, Choi Kook-hee, 2018; Memories Of Murder, Bong Joon Ho, 2003) has sold the family home to pay for a Caregiver (also Yum Hye-ran) for her dementia-stricken husband (Yoon Kyung-ho from Okja, Bong Joon Ho, 2017).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

A Snake Of June (Rokugatsu No Hebi, 六月の蛇)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 77m

*****

Unlike any terrorised female narrative you’ve ever seen, at once bizarre and hugely rewarding – currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme

This review originally appeared in What’s On In London, June 2003.

In an unnamed (but suspiciously Tokyo-like) Japanese city where it’s constantly raining, a mysterious phone caller blackmails repressed housewife Rinko (Asuka Kurosawa). If that sounds clichéd, set your prejudices aside because Shinya Tsukamoto’s unique, new film is unlike any terrorised female narrative you’ve ever seen. The motives of the caller (director Tsukamoto himself) are scarcely what you might expect.

From the moment Rinko opens a postal package labelled “Your Husband’s Secrets” to find photographs of herself masturbating (which she flicks into life like a series of animated stills) via her subsequent following orders involving short skirts and vibrators through to the extraordinary finale, the piece walks a difficult path between humiliating and liberating women.

With the year’s most arresting opening – a stripping model reduced to orgasmic ecstasy in serial, rapid-fire static images to the flashing of a stills camera – it’s likely to engross some viewers while offending others.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Settlers

Director – Wyatt Rockefeller – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 103m

****1/2

The lives of a one-child family living on a farm on Mars are changed forever by the arrival of a hostile outsider – out on digital platforms from Friday, July 30th

Reza (Jonny Lee Miller from Regeneration, Gillies Mackinnon, 1997; Trainspotting, Danny Boyle, 1996) and his wife Ilsa (Sofia Boutella from Climax, Gaspar Noé, 2018) have emigrated to Mars to take over a farm which they now run with the help of their nine-year-old daughter Remmy (Brooklynn Prince from The Florida Project, Sean Baker, 2017). Growing vegetables and rearing pigs, they seem very happy with their lot, not least because that the Earth the couple left behind was not in a good way… We hear very little about it beyond a conversation where Remmy learns her parents never encountered whales or elephants, only dogs, even as that planet hangs in the sky as a constant reminder of where they came from.

The light has a reddish glow. Everything around the compound is dirt, rocky outcrops and occasional areas of bush and scrub. There is no-one else around apart from the three of them.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

SCOOB!

Director – Tony Cervone – 2020 – US – Cert. PG – 93m

****

Available on VoD from Friday, July 10th and BD/DVD Monday, September 28th

I grew up watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons which would play in, if I recall, the 5.20 slot on the BBC. Some were better than others. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70) was one of the better ones. It had five memorable characters who each week would investigate some mystery suggesting monsters or the paranormal for which there would always turn out to be a rational explanation as the perpetrator was unmasked at the end, usually with the words “and I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t have been for you kids.”

The original cartoon TV series (1969-70) has spawned numerous spin-offs over the years including a so-so live action / special effects theatrical feature Scooby-Doo (2002) and a sequel. Which brings us to SCOOB!, an animated theatrical movie once again bringing the franchise to the big screen.

It starts off with a couple of tried and tested big screen adaptation tropes. One, taking one of the characters and having them somehow meet up with the others for their first adventure. Two, an origin story.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

The Old Man – The Movie (Vanamehe film)

Directors – Oskar Lehemaa, Mikk Mägi – 2019 – Estonia – 88m

***

From Fantasia Film Festival 2020 virtual edition and Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival.

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 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