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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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Getting Away With Murder(s)

Director – David Nicholas Wilkinson – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 175m

*****

Most of the perpetrators of the Holocaust were never prosecuted: this documentary attempts to understand why not – debuts on various streaming platforms UK, USA, Canada and Australia on Friday, January 27th 2023 (Holocaust Memorial Day)… Full details below review:

There’s something about the enormity of the issues involved here that makes this a very tough watch. (If it wasn’t, there would be something wrong. The Holocaust is not an easy issue to deal with. Films about it can consequently be tough to watch. And so they should be.) That combined with the near three-hour running time (this is not a complaint, honest) means it sat on my pending review pile for quite a while before I finally sat down and watched it.

I suspect Wilkinson is aware of this problem. As the film starts, he takes you (as it were) gently by the hand as he walks into Auschwitz and matter-of-factly discusses its horrors, helped by a man who works in the museum there and has probably helped numerous people before and since to come to terms with the implications of the place as they go round it.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies (and more, excluding re-releases) 2022

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2022, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/22 and 31/12/22. Prior to 2020, I’d never included online releases (well, maybe the odd one or two as a special case) but that year saw the film distribution business turned upside down by COVID-19. The movie business is still changing, and the dust hasn’t yet settled.

This version excludes re-releases (Psycho, Paris, Texas and Pickpocket, not to mention the first six Bond movies, would top everything here). It has been an amazing year for re-releases including one or two incredible, old movies being released in the UK for the first time on Blu-ray. This is the year I get to rank all 25 Eon Bond movies, and why not? A link to that longer list will be added here in due course.

In addition to re-releases, this version also excludes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2022.… Read the rest

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The Queen Of Spades

Director – Thorold Dickinson – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 95m

****1/2

A Russian army officer seeks the occult secret of playing cards that will earn him a vast fortune, but has not bargained for the dark, supernatural forces involved – 4K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 23rd and on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on January 23rd

1806, St. Petersburg. Unlike his well-connected aristocrat contemporaries in the army, Captain Goeman Suvorin (Anton Walbrook) sees no opportunity for advancement. In a bookstore, he chances upon an arcane volume which the store owner suggests will offer various opportunities for personal betterment fraught with danger. Reading up on “people who have sold their soul”, he learns that the Countess (Pauline Tennant) made her fortune in a gambling den with the secret of three unbeatable playing cards for which she agreed to sell her soul after one of her lovers stole her considerable personal allowance, taking advantage of her needing him to leave quickly in order to prevent her husband’s discovering his presence in her bedchamber, which stolen monies she then needed to find a means of replacing.

As the Countess is now an old woman (Dame Edith Evans), Goeman resolves to get close to her by romancing her ward Lizavyeta Ivanovna (Yvonne Mitchell) using words for love letters suggested by contemporary aristocratic officer Andrei Andreyonov (Ronald Howard) with neither of them aware that they are actually interested in the affections of the same girl.… Read the rest

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Doctor Who Am I

Director – Matthew Jacobs, Vanessa Yuille – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 80m

****

Screenwriter Jacobs’ entry into US Dr. Who fan subculture follows his scripting of the 1996 Dr. Who TV movie that was supposed to launch the franchise Stateside but floppedout in UK cinemas on Thursday, October 27th and Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download Monday, November 28th

What the hilarious narrative feature Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999) did for Star Trek, this heartfelt yet hugely entertaining documentary does for Dr. Who. Matthew Jacobs, whose work includes the screenplay for Paperhouse (Bernard Rose, 1988) and the original story for offbeat Disney cartoon The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000), also wrote the script for the US network TV movie Doctor Who (1996) which was supposed to relaunch the BBC franchise in the US, a goal it spectacularly missed when no series proved forthcoming.

In retrospect, Jacobs considers that his script made two major errors in terms of the Doctor Who legacy. One, it recast the hitherto entirely alien Time Lord as half-human, and, two, it allowed him to kiss a member of the opposite sex, something no previous version of the doctor had ever been seen to do.… Read the rest

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A Bunch Of Amateurs

Director – Kim Hopkins – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 95m

***

The Bradford Movie Makers amateur filmmaking club struggles to survive in the modern world – out in UK cinemas on Friday, November 11th

Founded in 1932, the Bradford Movie Makers is a club for lovers of movies to make their own films. Such amateur groups were once common in parts of Britain, but now they’re dying out. As one BMM member comments, Leeds and Wakefield are gone. The BMM may be next: its accounts are in a bad shape, with various utility bills unpaid and several years’ worth of rent owing to a seemingly sympathetic landlord. The decrepit garage space at the side of the building needs clearing. It’s currently used as a local dumping ground for rubbish. And many of the members themselves are getting on in years; in the course of the two or three years covered by this documentary, some of the members’ spouses will die.

But this is Yorkshire, and life goes on. Retired carpenter Colin climbs the steps of his uphill garden to perch precariously by his fence to plant daffodil bulbs. Eventually at the club, his herculean feat of climbing the narrow stairs to the screening room is augmented by the installation of a stairlift.… Read the rest

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Living

Director – Oliver Hermanus – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 102m

*****

Diagnosed with stomach cancer and given only months to live, a bureaucrat searches for something – anything – to give purpose to his hitherto meaningless life in this remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiruout in UK cinemas on Friday, November 4th following its screenings in the BFI London Film Festival 2022, while Ikiru is on BFI Player subscription

For anyone who has had the privilege of seeing Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952) it is a very strange thing to watch this remake of it. On the one hand, it is exactly the same film. It has the same plot. On the other, it is completely different. Both are set in the 1950s, the original in Japan and the new one in London.

At this point, I have to say that this remake sounded to me (until I’d seen it) like a very bad idea. Cinema is littered with great films that have been remade as shadows of their former selves. Generally speaking, most ideas like this are better left well alone. To make matters worse, this is a case of an established novelist writing a screenplay: producers love this because they see a bestselling author as having a reliable track record but, in fact, the skills required for writing a novel and a movie are very different indeed.… Read the rest

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In The Court Of The Crimson King: King Crimson At 50

Director – Toby Amies – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 86m

****1/2

Life behind the scenes members of the latest iteration of the band King Crimson, the revolving door institution helmed for half a century by musician Robert Fripp, as they rehearse and perform a tour – out in UK cinemas for one day only on Wednesday, October 19th and livestreaming From Saturday, October 22nd

Rather like the band King Crimson, what you see here is at once what you get and something entirely different.

The phrase “Toby’s camera” (which I’ll use later) seems apt. One doesn’t usually speak so personally of a director, and it’s not the case that I personally know Toby Amies or anything like that. Yet there’s a beguiling intimacy about this documentary. From the evidence here, King Crimson founder, guitarist and keyboard player Robert Fripp is a perfectionist liable to be thrown if something isn’t quite right: he describes all previous iterations of the band, something of a revolving door in which he’s been the sole constant member over the years, as painful and tells us that the current version of the band (together since 2013) is the one with which his experience has been happiest.… Read the rest

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Hopper: An American Love Story

Director – Phil Grabsky – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 94m

*****

The story of American painter Edward Hopper, and how his artistic career was facilitated by his fellow artist wife Jo out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, October 18th

Latest entry in Grabsky’s generally excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art and artists covers the career of Edward Hopper to tie in with a major Hopper exhibition (Edward Hopper’s New York) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The big (and most welcome) surprise is that it charts not just Hopper’s life and work but also that of fellow artist Josephine Nivison, later his wife Josephine Nivison Hopper, whose career was largely eclipsed by his during his lifetime. To be fair, it doesn’t really go into her life before the point at which she became involved in his.

Hopper was born in 1882 and raised in the Nyack, New York house his parents had built (an enviable state, indicative of their and his time, which must surely influence one’s outlook on life). Religion and church were important to the Hoppers, but theirs was the brand of Christianity unafraid to engage with the outside world which at that time meant vast quantities of books and periodicals; the young Edward acquired a love of books from his avid reader father.… Read the rest

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The Son

Director – Florian Zeller – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 123m

****1/2

A man and his wife must deal with the mental illness of his son by a previous marriage when he moves in with them – from the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Peter (Hugh Jackman) is a successful New York lawyer with a wife Beth (Vanessa Kirby) and a small child Theo. One day, his ex-wife Kate (Laura Dern) turns up at his apartment door to inform him that, as she’s just found out, their teenage son Nicholas (Zen McGrath) has not been to school for one month. She has tried to talk to the boy but got no sense out of him. When Peter goes to visit them, the boy insists he’d like to come and live with his dad.

New mum Beth is understandably hesitant, but nevertheless the couple agree to have Nicholas stay. It quickly becomes apparent that he has grievances against his father and step-mother for leaving his mother and becoming involved with his married father respectively. While Nicholas has never got over his parents’ break-up, Peter has continued in a career which leaves him increasingly less time for family.… Read the rest