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The End We Start From

Director – Mahalia Belo – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 102m

***1/2

As parts of the UK are flooded and submerged by an ecological disaster, a woman births a baby she must then bring up – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

On the one hand, this starts off with a woman (Jodie Comer) giving birth and then experiencing the process of being a new mother, with all the joys and stresses that entails. On the other, this shows the UK being overtaken and flooded by an eco-disaster, and how people respond to that situation both individually and en masse. The second scenario is reminiscent of any number of disaster and / or science fiction movies about flooding, apocalypse or dystopia (When Worlds Collide, Rudolph Maté, 1951; Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, 2006; Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds, 1995): if you approach this movie expecting something like that, you’re going to be disappointed, because although that element is very much present in the film, it’s little more than the backdrop.

It plays more like a road movie, in which the heroine – the husband having dropped out of the narrative towards the end of the first reel – meets a series of people on her travels, each of whom offer their own individual insight into the state of things and how the new mother might move forward.… Read the rest

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The Milky Way
(Halav)

Director – Maya Kenig – 2023 – Israel, France – Cert. none – 94m

***

In need of income to feed her baby, a mother gets a job in a factory breast-pumping out human milk for sale to rich mother clients – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Singer-songwriter Tala (Hila Ruach) loves performing and writing, but can’t seem to make any money at it. And she needs money, having recently given birth to Sheleg (whose name means Snow), so gets herself a day job at Milky Way. It’s a company that employs mothers to pump their milk into containers so that rich mothers can buy the best quality milk – at a premium price. Each employee is given their own individual cubicle, and the women communicate with each other through and over the partition walls. It’s basically a milking factory for human women.

Tala quickly gets into trouble with the company authorities via an argument with a staff member when Tala lies down with her baby in an area filled with balls – supposedly for children only, not adults – as it is the only thing that will stop him crying.… Read the rest

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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

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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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Monsters

Director – Gareth Edwards – 2010 – UK – Cert. 12 – 90m

*****

Gareth Edwards’ remarkable feature debut is like nothing you’ve ever seen – out on DVD Monday, April 11th 2011 following its release in UK cinemas on Friday, December 3rd, 2010

An extraordinary film defying easy classification, Monsters looks from the outside like a cheap District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) but is actually something else entirely: a sci-fi road movie, a romantic drama, radical and inventive like nothing you’ve ever seen. Made on a shoestring in and around Mexico with a four-man crew and a two-man cast (plus anyone else who was around at the time), it’s the brainchild of former BBC CG FX maestro Edwards, who added all the creature effects himself in post-production in his living room. A remarkable, transcendent work, it hits DVD with scads of extras.

Pre-emptive titles inform us that a returning space probe broke up over Mexico scattering alien samples gathered during its voyage, resulting in part of that country’s being declared an ‘Infected Zone’, a no-go area for mankind populated by giant monsters. Some years later, Mexico-based photojournalist Kaulder (Scoot McNairy from In Search Of A Midnight Kiss) gets a call from his US-based boss to bring home the latter’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able).… Read the rest

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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

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Boonie Bears
Guardian Code
(Xiong Chu Mo
Ban Wo Xiong Xin,
熊出没·伴我“熊芯”)

Directors – Lin Yongchang, Shao Heqi – 2023 – China – Cert. PG – 99m

****1/2

Abandoned by their mother as children, bear siblings Bramble and Briar uncover a conspiracy involving roboticists and robots in a dubbed format for family audiences – out in cinemas on Friday, May 26th following its premiere at the Prince Charles Cinema around midday on Saturday, May 13th

Bear cubs Bramble (voiced in the English language version by Siobhan Lumsden) and Briar (voice: Nichalia Schwartz) enjoy and idyllic life in the Pine Tree Mountain forest in the care of their loving, lullaby-singing mother Barbara (voice: Kally Khourshid). Barbara shows them her amber pendant containing a moon and a star shape, one for each of her two cubs who have those shapes in light patches of fur on their chests. (Bramble is the one with the yellowish fur and Briar the one with reddish fur.)

One day, Briar sees her walk away through the burning ruins of a house as if she never knew him. The brothers never see her again, growing up on their own and looking out for one another.

Years later, the adult Bramble (voice: Joseph S. Lambert) and Briar (voice: Patrick Freeman), disguised as robots using makeshift fridge and washing machine costumes that would give the robot performer of Brian And Charles (Jim Archer, 2022) a run for his money, are being driven by their best friend the human Vick (voice: Paul ‘Maxx’ Rinehart) along with roboticist Dr.… Read the rest

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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

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Sick Of Myself
(Syk Pike)

Director – Kristoffer Borgli – 2022 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 95m

*****

Fed up with the attention her successful artist partner is getting, a woman deliberately consumes dangerous prescription drugs to make herself the centre of attention– out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 21st

Young Oslo couple Thomas (Eirik Sæther) and Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp from Ninjababy, Ingvild Sve Flikke, 2021; The Burning Sea, John Andreas Andersen, 2022) have an unhealthy relationship. He is a compulsive thief, stealing luxury items such as expensive wine and designer furniture from restaurants and showrooms, respectively. She is a compulsive liar and attention seeker. They somehow co-exist in a state of unstable equilibrium. They are on a collision course because he has a potential celebrity career while she does not. He is an artist having his first show at a major gallery, while she works at an ordinary coffee shop.

At a celebratory gathering with friends, she is constantly belittling him, constantly talking down his achievement through judicious use of fact coupled with any fiction she might care to invent. At a restaurant meal with his gallery owner and assorted invited guests, she invents an allergy, ‘absent-mindedly consumes a small amount of Thomas’ food and suffers an allergy attack, immediately becoming the focus of attention on what should be his evening rather than hers.… Read the rest

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Infinity Pool

Director – Brandon Cronenberg – 2023 – Canada, Hungary, France – Cert. 18 – 117m

*****

WARNING: NSFW

A man holidaying abroad at a resort with his wealthy wife is lured into a series of crimes, punishable locally by death unless you’re rich enough to buy your way out – in UK cinemas from Friday, March 24th

An infinity pool is a swimming pool designed so that at least one edge appears to go on forever, blending into a seascape or waterscape such as an ocean or lake. It’s limitless. One character in this film once installed such a pool for a local hotel, but that’s really not the point. Which is, something that has no boundary, that appears to extend into infinity. Like the moral transgressions in this film, once the preventative edges of incurred punishment are removed from the perpetration of criminal acts, for which the idea of the infinity pool stands as a metaphor. This may not make sense now, but it will once you’ve watched the film and thought about it.

James (Alexander Skarsgärd) and Em (Cleopatra Coleman) Foster are holidaying at a resort. To date, he is a one-book writer: his book was published to rotten reviews and sank without trace and he can’t seem to find an idea for the second one.… Read the rest