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Plane

Director – Jean-François Richet – 2022 – UK, US – Cert. 15 – 107m

****

A commercial passenger aircraft flying through bad weather conditions gets into trouble and is forced to land on an island run by military insurgents – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 27th

While this is unlikely to win any Oscars, it’s a shrewdly put together action movie that gets everything right, tells its audience exactly what it’s going to do and then proceeds to do it, wrapping up everything very quickly in about thirty seconds once the narrative is over. That might not sound like much, but most action movies you see fail to meet such criteria. Moreover, a lot of action movies work perfectly well on a small screen, but this one works better if you see it on as big a screen as possible.

Singapore. Scotsman Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler from 300, Zak Snyder, 2007) is cutting it fine and may be about to be late for work again. Since he’s an airline pilot, that’s quite a big deal. Somehow, he gets to the cockpit of the plane with enough time to introduce himself to his co-pilot Samuel Dele (Yosun An from Mulan) ahead of the pre-takeoff, routine inspection by an aviation official.… Read the rest

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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

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Rodeo (Rodéo)

Director – Lola Quivoron – 2022 – France – Cert. 12 – 105m

***

Le Fast et la Furieuse. A young woman bike thief makes her mark on a group of bikers living in a bike repair shop run from a prison by its incarcerated owner – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Julia (Julie Ledru) loves motorbikes. She loves riding them. And she loves stealing them. At various points in the narrative, she follows up ‘bike for sale’ ads, goes to see the seller, impresses them with her considerable knowledge, persuades them to let her test drive the bike by riding it alone for a certain distance then rides off with it. She’s also poor and living on a rundown housing estate, an environment beloved of a certain strata of French cinema (e.g. Two Of Three Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard, 1967, La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995; District 13, Pierre Morel, 2004). Not that you see much of this environment after the opening reel. She represents a very French form of anti-hero, and if you don’t have any problem with her sense of entitlement and the fact that she sees nothing wrong with stealing, this is a rollicking good yarn.… Read the rest

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Cave Rescue

Director – Tom Waller – 2022 – Thailand – US Cert. PG-13 – 99m

****

A Thai-based dramatisation of the 2018 Thailand boys’ football team cave rescue, with some of the rescuers playing themselves – on Blu-ray (US only) Tuesday, September 13th

In 2018, the world held its breath when the 12 boys of a football team and their 24-year-old coach became trapped in a cave when rain fell unexpectedly and water levels within the cave system started to rise. Incredibly, the ensuing rescue attempt involving divers from the US, UK, Ireland and Canada got all 13 out alive. According to this film, sadly, there was one fatality among the Thai Navy SEAL divers involved in the rescue.

Quick off the mark, Thailand-based producer-director Waller made the story into a feature film The Cave (2019), aimed at the Thai market. With Netflix having already secured the rights to the boys’ stories – a miniseries Thai Cave Rescue (2022) is coming to Netflix US in September 2022 – Waller and his co-writers had to find an alternative route to telling the story. A meeting with Irish diver Jim Warny, who was involved in the rescue operation, resulted in the decision to base the narrative not around the thirteen people trapped underground but the men and women who attempted to get them out (mostly men, although there are one or two women featured among the paramedics not to mention an assistant to the local Governor).… Read the rest

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Thirteen Lives

Director – Ron Howard – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 147m

****

A dramatisation of the 2018 Thailand boys’ football team cave rescue, with the rescuers played by name actors– out in cinemas on Friday, July 29th and globally on Amazon on Friday, August 5th

In 2018, the world held its breath when the 12 boys of a football team and their 24-year-old coach became trapped in a cave when rain fell unexpectedly and water levels within the cave system started to rise. Incredibly, the ensuing rescue attempt involving divers from the US, UK, Ireland and Canada got all 13 out alive. According to the informational titles at the end of this film, sadly, there was one fatality among the Thai Navy SEAL divers involved in the rescue (shown in the film) and another death in that group later as the result of a contracted infection.

The story captivated the world, which held its breath as the days went by after the boys first became trapped by the water flooding the cave. For over a week, it wasn’t even known whether they were still alive. When they were located, alive and well, the question loomed large as to whether they would be able to get out alive.… Read the rest

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Bullet Train

Director – David Leitch – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 126m

***

A man boards a bullet train in Tokyo to steal a suitcase only to be prevented from leaving the train every time he tries to get off it – lightweight action thriller is out in UK cinemas on Wednesday, August 3rd

This adaptation of mystery writer Kotoro Isaka’s 2010 novel, for which the Japanese title literally translates as Maria Beetle, concerns five assassins, each with their separate agenda, who board a bullet train. The film casts Westerners in many of these roles, repopulating the film with an international cast of Americans, Brits and Japanese. Brad Pitt as the lead obviously has box office clout, and is as watchable as ever in this film, however the film has inevitably been accused of whitewashing (even though ‘white’ here would seem to include Puerto Rican and African-American).

The producers here seem to think Japanese high speed rail journeys will draw international audiences but entirely Japanese characters will not. Whether or not they’re correct, casting the film the way they have reinforces this notion. Who else could have done it, you ask? Off the top of my head, I can think of three Hong Kong Chinese, any of whom would work: Chow Yun-fat, Jackie Chan or Tony Leung Chiu-wai.… Read the rest

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A Chinese Odyssey (Sai Yau Gei, 西遊記)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part One – Pandora’s Box (Sai Yau Gei: Yut Gwong Bou Haap, 西遊記第壹佰零壹回之月光寶盒)

A Chinese Odyssey: Part Two – Cinderella (Sai Yau Gei: Sin Leui Kei Yun, 西遊記大結局之仙履奇緣)

Director – Jeffrey Lau – 1995 – Hong Kong – 87 + 98m

***

The Monkey King is banished to earth with loss of memory for a series of encounters with monsters and romantic interludes – screened as part of Focus Hong Kong 2022 Chinese New Year on Saturday January 29th

These two films are the first and second parts of the same story, so it makes sense to screen them together as a double bill. The starting point is the 16th century Chinese novel Journey To The West, which has also spawned such productions as the seminal Chinese animation The Monkey King (Wan Laiming, Cheng Tang; Part One, 1961; Part Two, 1964) and the long-running Japanese TV series Monkey (1978-80). The novel’s plot concerns a monk and his three assistants Pigsy, Sandy and Monkey who journey to the West (i.e. Central Asia and India) to obtain Buddhist texts.

Less an adaptation of the novel than a tangential story that uses the novel’s framework as its starting point, the films are bookended by two sequences, one at the start of Part One, the other at the end of Part Two, which start the tangential story rolling and wrap it up respectively.… Read the rest

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Detective Chinatown 3 (Tang Ren Jie Tan An 3, 唐人街探案3)

Director – Chen Sicheng – 2021 – China – Cert. 15 – 136m

****

The Chinese franchise’s super-sleuth and bumbling sidekick join forces with their Japanese and Thai counterparts in Japan – out in cinemas on Tuesday, January 25th and 26th only

No sooner have the brilliant crime-solving sleuth Qin Feng (Liu Haoran) and his likeable if barely competent sidekick Tang Ren (Wang Baoqiang) flown in to Tokyo and met their contact there, the sharp and colourful Hiroshi Noda (Satoshi Tsumabuki), than they find themselves embroiled in one of the most seriously bonkers action sequences in the movies in recent years when members of (at least) two gangs suddenly attack in the airport to the inspired accompaniment of the pop song ‘Welcome To Tokyo’ (which gets rolled out again for a cheerful, cast of thousands, song and dance routine accompanying the end credits). Extensive mayhem ensures. A man rolls down a long flight of steps in an oil drum. Two groups of smartly uniformed and skirted women do battle (one group in red, one in blue – stewardesses from rival airlines, perhaps?). Workmen in hard hats and overalls descend from scaffolding to join the melee.

Knowing this will be an impossible act to follow, the film then throws in a pursuer Jack Jaa (Thai martial arts sensation Tony Jaa from Ong-bak, Prachya Pinkaew, 2003) on the Tokyo subway before having the trio flee him on go-karts while he comes unstoppably and hilariously after them by stealing a child’s bicycle with tiny wheels.… Read the rest

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Black Widow

Director – Cate Shortland – 2021 – US, UK – Cert. 12a – 133m

****

Marvel’s latest is less about mysterious former spy Black Widow than the relationship between her and her younger sister – out in cinemas on Wednesday, July 7th

The nuclear family of a father, mother and two young daughters growing up in Ohio in the mid-1990s turns out not to be a nuclear family at all but a man, a woman and two unsuspecting children planted there to look like one by mysterious Russian organisation the Red Room. Natasha (Ever Anderson) is both highly competitive with and protective of her little sister Yelena (Violet McGraw). When someone gets hurt, their mother Melina (Rachel Weisz) is always there for comfort and support.

“You remember how we said one day we’d have an adventure?” says dad Alexei (David Harbour). “Well, that day has come.” He has the only remaining copy of computer files on a disc. There’s an hour to pack before first police cars then S.H.I.E.L.D. SUVs turn up looking for them. By the time the SUVs find them, the family are busy taking off in a private plane from a hidden airfield. When they reach Cuba, the mother is dying from a bullet wound while the father is revealed as a mercenary, happy to see the two children who aren’t actually their daughters at all sedated and taken away after the older Natasha has pulled a gun on her ‘dad’.… Read the rest

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Shock Wave 2, (Chai Dan Zhuan Jia 2, 拆彈專家 2)

Director – Herman Yau – 2020 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 15 – 120m

****

A former bomb disposal expert suspected of a terrorist atrocity must prevent a terrorist organisation from destroying the Hong Kong International Airport and taking numerous innocent lives in the process – now available to rent online in the new Chinese Cinema Season 2021 in the UK & Ireland as part of the Hong Kong, Reimagined strand until Wednesday, May 12th

If you’ve seen Shock Wave (Herman Yau, 2017) you’ll know that a sequel with Andy Lau reprising his character wouldn’t be possible. Both director and star clearly wanted to capitalise on the first film, however, so they’ve simply dumped character names and most of what happened in the first film, reinvented the main character and started all over again with a completely different story. This has the effect of making the audience feel that they’re seeing another film in the series but at the same time seeing something that’s brand new, not at all a carbon copy.

Except that in the broadest outline it IS a carbon copy: once again, Andy Lau plays an heroic member of the Hong Kong Police’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Bureau (EOD) with Philip Keung as a friend and colleague in the force, this time round named Lee Yiu Sing, while the plot involves the potential huge bombing of an important Hong Kong landmark – here the Hong Kong International Airport which is blown up at the start only for a voice-over to explain that this terrorist atrocity has been prevented thanks to one man.… Read the rest