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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Eraserhead

Director – David Lynch – 1977 – US – Cert. 15 – 89 mins

*****

A look at where Eraserhead came from – and where its weirdness led. First published in 1996.

The current vogue for Special Editions and Director’s Cuts prompts David Lynch to rerelease Eraserhead with a Dolby Stereo sound remix.

The pre-existing gem of a soundtrack was textured by Lynch and collaborating sound designer Alan Splet to incorporate a host of industrial noises alongside such unforgettable effects as the hero’s girlfriend’s mother gargling during a dinner table fit. Eraserhead remains arguably the most original and innovative vision the last twenty years of American cinema have produced.

Not that film or director came from the mainstream. Abandoning painting as an art student, Lynch began making animation / live action films with the brief loop Six Men Getting Sick (1967) with the four minute The Alphabet (1969) and the half hour The Grandmother (1970) funded by American Film Institute grants. The AFI then funded Eraserhead, which mushroomed to feature length and required completion finance from elsewhere. Reactions to the result vary between boredom, revulsion, or admiration (this writer aligns with the latter).

Invited to his girlfriend Mary’s (Charlotte Stewart) for dinner, “Printer – on vacation” Henry (Lynch regular Jack Nance) learns she is pregnant.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Wonka

Director – Paul King – 2023 – US – Cert. PG – 112m

Movie ****

Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa when he eventually appears*****

How the youthful Willy Wonka became the world’s most celebrated maker of chocolate – musical based on one of Roald Dahl’s best-known characters is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th

Willy Wonka is familiar to generations of children through both the book in which he first appeared, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and its two film adaptations Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton, 2005). Rather than remake the novel a third time, Warner Bros. have taken the bold step of creating a Willy Wonka origin story. Who was Wonka before he became the innovative and eccentric chocolate factory owner that book and movie audiences know and love? It’s a great idea for a film.

Paul King, who previously breathed cinematic life into another well-known figure from British children’s literature in his two Paddington movies (2017 and 2014), has, together with Paddington 2 co-screenwriter Simon Farnaby, come up with an original story which feels like a Dahl adaptation – although it isn’t.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Lunana:
A Yak In The Classroom
(ལུང་ནག་ན)

Director – Pawo Choyning Dorji – 2022 – Bhutan – Cert. PG – 109m

****

A young man trapped in and frustrated with a teaching career is sent to a remote village, which turns out to be the best thing that’s ever happened to him – 2022 Oscar-nominated film for Best International Feature is out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 10th

Bhutan operates a system of National Service, and for Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) this means five years working in education. His heart was never in it, and he finds it something of an ordeal. His grandmother (Tsheri Zom) constantly berates him for not getting up early enough, while the State education system is less than impressed with his record. If he had his own way, he’d give it all up, take his guitar and go to Australia to try and set himself up as a singer. He’s still required to finish his five years first, though.

That’s bad enough, but then this die-in-the-wool urbanite addicted to his mobile phone and music listening on headphones finds that the system is so fed up with him, it sends him to an unexpected Autumn term teaching placement he’s in no position to refuse, much as he might wish to do so.… Read the rest

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

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Features Live Action Movies

Nitram

Director – Justin Kurzel – 2022 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 112m

*****

A drama re-imagining of the events in the life of a young man leading up to Tasmania’s 1996 Port Arthur Massacre – out in cinemas on Friday, July 1st

This extraordinary character study starts off with a sense of foreboding which never really lets up. Children are interviewed at the Royal Tasmania Hospital’s Burns Unit and asked how their accidents occurred. We expect cautionary tales of lessons learned. But the second child interviewed states matter-of-factly that he still plays with firecrackers, Then we see Nitram (Caleb Landry Jones) as a grown youth, some years later, doing exactly that in the garden of the house in which he lives with his parents, to the annoyance not only to his parents who have to put up with it but also to the neighbours.

His mum (Judy Davis), worn down by years of such behaviour, insists Nitram surrender the fireworks to his father (Anthony LaPaglia) who is weighed down by financial worries – he needs to get a loan off the bank – and ineffectual at discipline. She also insists he put his filthy overalls in the wash (and they are pretty disgusting) before sitting down to eat dinner with them, which he then does, returning to the table in his underpants, which she lets pass with no comment since he’s complied.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Elvis

Director – Baz Luhrmann – 2022 – US, Australia – Cert. 12a – 159m

***

Elvis Presley’s career from the mid-1950s through to his death in 1977, and his complex business relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker – out in cinemas on Friday, June 24th

Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), having a heart attack, reminisces to himself about his career. Many considered him the abuser and exploiter of the singer Elvis Presley, but that wasn’t the way it was. In the early 1950s, when Parker was managing the touring show of country singer Hank Snow (David Wenham), he heard Presley’s first recording on Sun Records though Hank’s son Jimmie Rodgers Snow (Kodi Smit-Mcphee), a singer in his own right who Parker didn’t think was anything like as good as his father.

Parker, an old time carnival showman, is always on the lookout for that one act that’s a little bit different, affects audiences and might well clean up at the box office. When he first sees Elvis (Austin Butler) perform, and notices young girls and older women going wild at the singer’s dance moves, he is convinced there’s money to be made and determines to sign him before someone else does.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Romantic self-doubt

Cyrano
Directed by Joe Wright
Certificate 12a, 124 minutes
Released 25 February

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac concerns a man who, because of his long nose, considers himself too ugly to tell the girl of his dreams and childhood friend Roxanne that he loves her. This new version ditches the nose to cast Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) as the hero whose dwarfism becomes his reason for thinking Roxanne (Haley Bennett) couldn’t possibly love him. Then she falls in love… with one of the men in the regiment he commands.

However… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Cyrano is nominated for Best Costume Design in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars.

Cyrano is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, February 25th.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Director – Joe Wright – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

The short stature of Cyrano de Bergerac makes him believe that no woman could ever love him – not even his beloved friend Roxanne, who he can’t bring himself to tell – out in cinemas on Friday, February 25th

17th Century Italy. Witty and articulate Captain of the Guard Cyrano de Bergerac (Peter Dinklage) is never at a loss for words. His rapier wit defeats any opponent, as does his rapier proper should any be foolish enough to challenge him to a duel. Being short in stature, he can’t imagine that any normal sized woman could love him for who he is.

He is therefore unable to confess his love for her to the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett), the woman and lifelong childhood friend for whom he would do anything. So when she falls in love at first sight with Christian (Bashir Salahuddin), a new recruit to Cyrano’s regiment, Cyrano finds himself torn between her rejection and his desire for her to be happy with the man she loves. Unfortunately, this intelligent and free-spirited young woman enjoys nothing more than the literary cut and thrust which Cyrano is able to provide but the inarticulate and out of his depth Christian is not.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Sound Of Nomad:
Koryo Arirang

Director – Kim So-young (as Kim Jeong) – 2017 – South Korea – 87m

****

How an indigenous theatre company kept the culture of the Koryo people alive after they were deported by the Soviet authorities from Far East Russia to Kazakhstan in 1937 – in the documentary season: Korean Film Nights: In Transit presented by LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival

The Beijing Treaty (of 1860 although the date isn’t mentioned) ceded to Russia the so-called Maritime Province – an area of land stretching down to Vladivostock. The territory bordered on the Northwestern tip of Choson (Joseon), today’s Korea, and Chosons stated migrating into the Maritime Province, calling themselves the Koryo people. In late 1937, the Soviet authorities decided that the Koryos could potentially be Japanese spies and deported them in boarded up trains to Ushtobei, Kazakhstan, Central Asia.

The journey took two days and many children died, their corpses thrown unceremoniously out of the train at night. After the journey, the deportees faced a harsh winter, the eventual death toll rising to 40 000.

This story has been documented in Korea, but little else about the Koryos has. The first Kazakhstan Koryo settlement in Ushtobei is today marked by a memorial.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Movies Music

Poly Styrene:
I Am A Cliché

Punk biopic

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché
Directed by Celeste Bell and Paul Sng
Certificate 12a, 96 minutes
Released 5 March at www.modernfilms.com
Viewers can select a participating local cinema to share the revenue of the virtual box office

This documentary about the late Poly Styrene (real name Marion Elliot), the iconic front woman of the 1970s punk band X-Ray Spex, paints a compelling picture of a creative and innovative young woman going against the grain to break new ground in pop music. The band was very much her baby which she put together by advertising for musicians in the music press. She wrote all their material.

Her literal baby is the film’s co-director and co-writer Celeste Bell, who as a young child escaped from her well-intentioned but unfit mother during their time living on the Hare Krishna estate in Hertfordshire. On her mum’s death, Celeste found herself the guardian of Poly’s vast archive. It was five years before she could bring herself to look inside and see what was there… Read more

Full review in Reform magazine.

Trailer: