Categories
Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Hunt (Heon-teu, 헌트)

Director – Lee Jung-jae – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. – 121m

****1/2

Two top KCIA operatives, each heading up his own department, both come to believe that the North Korean mole they are hunting is the other out in cinemas Friday, November 4th; opened the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) which ran in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

Two Korean intelligence men are sitting in a car. One asks the other riddles.

What’s a war in space? Star Wars.

What’s a war in winter? Cold War.

What’s a neverending war? Korean War.

A little background history will add to your enjoyment of this fictional thriller set against the backdrop of actual historical events.

In 1979, a South Korean coup d’état established the country’s fourth dictatorship since WW2. In 1980, with martial law declared, the Gwangju Uprising saw a battle between the military and ordinary citizens in the town of Gwangju in which at least 200 civilians were killed. In 1987, student protests lead to the overthrow of the Fifth Republic Of South Korea (1981-87) and free elections.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies Shorts

Memories (Memorizu, メモリーズ)

1/ Magnetic Rose (Kanojo no Omoide, 彼女の想いで)

2/ Stink Bomb (Saishu Heiki, 最臭兵器)

3/ Cannon Fodder (Taiho no Machi, 大砲の街)

Directors

– 1/ Koji Morimoto, 2/ Tensai Okamura, 3/ Katsuhiro Otomo

– 1995 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 113m

*****

Executive producer Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime anthology adapts three of his dystopian-themed manga stories into animation – out on Blu-ray from All The Anime, Monday, 12th September, details below review

The film that made Otomo’s name and the one with which he’s most frequently associated is Akira (1988). It wasn’t his first film, though. Previously, he was one of nine directors who collaborated on the uneven portmanteau Robot Carnival (1987), a compendium of different animated stories based around robots of various types. One of the other directors was Koji Morimoto.

Memories is loosely similar – it only has three stories (and three directors), allowing each of the segments a bit more room. Its three episodes are very different yet perfectly complement each other. Otomo directed the third section Cannon Fodder.

Parts of the roughly two hour Akira drag, while Otomo’s later Steamboy (2004) gets lost within a massive set piece after a near perfect opening first reel or so.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Railway Children Return

Director – Morgan Matthews – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 98m

***1/2

Almost four decades after the events in The Railway Children, three siblings are evacuated from the wartime bombing raids of Salford to the safer Yorkshire countryside– out in cinemas on Friday, July 15th

In 1944, with Britain at war and German bombing intensifying, children are being evacuated from the cities to the countryside, leaving their parents to live with substitute parents and / or families for the duration. Thus, in Salford, their mother puts Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Angela (Jessica Baglow) and Ted (Zac Cudby) on a train to the small country town of Oakworth in Yorkshire. Arriving with many other children, they wait to be assigned to a family.

However, because there are three of them – and possibly also because Angela has got rid of the smart dress that her mother made her wear for a more comfortable outfit – no family is forthcoming. So grandmother Bobbie (Jenny Agutter, reprising her role from The Railway Children, Lionel Jeffries, 1970) persuades her daughter Annie (Sheridan Smith), the local headmistress, to take the trio even though the latter isn’t sure they can manage three, and the three children move in to their new home, The Three Chimneys.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Sayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazaro, さよならの朝に約束の花をかざろう)

Director – Mari Okada – 2018 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 115m

***

Like a virgin. A refugee girl from an immortal race adopts an orphaned human baby to raise as her own until he leaves her as an adult – plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

The Iolph are the Clan Of The Separate: they live for hundreds of years but remain in their isolated enclave cut off from the rest of humanity. They weave fabric called the Hibiol on looms; the Hibiol contains within it the storylines of their lives which the Iolph can feel and read.

Maquia and Leilia are friends. Leilia is the tomboy, getting into trouble. One day, Mezarte riders on dragons called the Renato attack and decimate the Iolph colony. Leilia is taken prisoner to be married off to the invading Mezarte prince while Maquia escapes on a Renato which goes beserk infected with the disease Red Eye, literally crashing and burning in a forest miles from home. She takes refuge in a village which has similarly been attacked and finds a baby which she prises free from the rigor mortis grip of its mother’s corpse and names the boy Erial.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Amulet

Director – Romola Garai – 2020 – UK – Cert. 15 – 99m

*****

A border checkpoint soldier moves into a suburban, London house with a dark secret in the attic – out on VoD on Monday, February 28th

Somewhere in Russia or Eastern Europe – it’s not clear exactly where – a soldier (Alec Secareanu) is billeted in an austere wooden hut within walking distance of the border checkpoint he mans between certain hours of the day. The rest of the time, he wanders in the local woodlands. In one location, he gets the urge to dig in the peaty earth and finds a small figure – the eponymous amulet – of a female deity.

One day, a woman (Angeliki Papoulia) runs down the road towards the checkpoint, despite his warnings that he’ll shoot her, then trips. He takes her in, introduces himself as Tomaz and lets her use the shelter of his hut. Eventually it comes out that Miriam wants to cross the border, over which her estranged husband took their daughter, with whom she wishes to be reunited.

Is this in his past? It it a dream? It’s not entirely clear. In another reality or time period, Tomaz (now with a beard) is an immigrant in London, living in a squat and struggling to hold things together with piecemeal building work.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Every Time I Die

Director – Robi Michael – 2019 – US – 97m

***1/2

Reality disintegrates around a man tormented by the accidental, childhood death of his sister – on VoD from Monday, October 26th

People who’ve apparently died then come back to life have often reported the sensation of going down a dark tunnel towards the light, which they then haven’t reached because they’ve been brought back to life. That motif is realised a repeated, clumsy special effect at various points in Every Time I Die, along with more subtle and arguably more successful variants on the same theme, such as a child waking up in a hospital room where the door is slightly ajar revealing a light source beyond.

Other elements recur too: protagonist Sam (Drew Fonteiro) repeatedly feels a pain in his head and blacks out, only to repeatedly come to or wake up in another scenario. He wakes as a young lad of eight (Kenneth Moronta), a camera on the table in front of him, in the hospital room with the door ajar and the light beyond, Then he wakes up, in that device we’ve seen so many times in movies where it was all a dream. Here he wakes staring at the face of Mia (Melissa Macedo) who has spent the night with him and now must leave early to go back to her husband Tyler (Tyler Dash White), a soldier recently returned from several months away on active duty.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Military Wives

Director – Peter Cattaneo– 2019 – UK – Cert.12A – 112m

**

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, July 6th.

Currently streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime and Curzon Home Cinema.

Twenty and a bit years after the hilarious British comedy The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997) in which a group of unemployed male steelworkers reinvent themselves as a striptease act, director Cattaneo tries something similar with a group of soldiers’ wives on a British army base at the time of the Afghanistan War who, in order to deal with their isolation from their active service husbands, reinvent themselves as a ladies choir.

Where the men in the earlier film underwent a crisis of identity when they lost their jobs, the women here are by default defined by their absent husbands, waiting for the text messages that inform them their men are out of satellite contact until further notice or, worse, the knock on the door bringing news of their loved one’s death.

I review Military Wives for DMovies.org.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, July 6th.

Currently streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime and Curzon Home Cinema.

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

The Physics Of Sorrow (Physique De La Tristesse)

Director – Theodore Ushev – 2019 – Canada – 27m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival.

Available to watch on Amazon here.

Voice-over narration by Rossif Sutherland with the occasional line echoed by Donald Sutherland (or Xavier Dolan with Manuel Tadros in the French language version) accompanies extraordinary serial images. The verbals are adapted from the novel by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov and with echoes of reincarnation describe universal human and occasional other animal form experience of life. The opening minute or so (see the trailer) describes a person born in 1944 sheltering from English planes and bombing raids, a person born in the Bulgaria of 1968 who remembers the Prague Spring, a fruit fly who lives and dies in a day and the end of the dinosaurs.

This would probably be mesmerising were it just a radio broadcast or a sound file with the actors’ voices and sound effects, but Ushev accompanies his soundtrack with the most incredible images. Partly it’s the arresting content of the visuals he creates here and partly the technique used to realise them. A teenage boy falling in love with a circus acrobat girl who works days at a fairground shooting gallery.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Black And Blue

Director – Director – Deon Taylor – 2019 – US – Cert. 15 – 108m

Now available to view online : scroll down for details.

Right at the start of this, Naomie Harris is walking along a New Orleans street when she’s stopped and harassed by two cops. For no reason. Well, there is a reason: she’s black and the cops are white. Except that, as she points out, she herself is a cop too. She’s blue. So reluctantly they have to let her go.

Rookie cop Alicia West (Harris) joined the police at the same time as officers are being required to wear body cams and thinks these a good idea. However she underestimates the levels of violence between police and members of the public. Covering a night shift for her cop partner, she is shocked to see grizzled veteran Deacon Brown (James Moses Black) use what she thinks is excessive force on a man outside a nightclub. It turns out, however, that the man had a gun and wouldn’t have hesitated to use it on her.

I review Black And Blue for DMovies.org.

Watch on Amazon, Amazon 4K UHD, Netflix or Starz.