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Features Live Action Movies

The Railway Children (1970)

Director – Lionel Jeffries –1970 – UK – Cert. U – 109m

****1/2

After their father is arrested and the family plunged into poverty, three siblings and their mother leave London for the Yorkshire countryside – now on BBC iPlayer until around mid-August, also recently back out in cinemas for one day only on Sunday, July 3rd

E. Nesbit’s book The Railway Children, set in 1905, has been filmed several times, most notably as the BBC TV series of 1968 and Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 cinema film, both of which starred Jenny Agutter as the eldest of three children sent from the city to Oakworth in Yorkshire. What is arguably the 1968 and 1970 version’s most memorable sequence has the children stand on train tracks waving red flags to stop an oncoming train and prevent an accident after a tree falls on the line ahead.

My parents used to sit me and my younger brother down and make us watch Sunday teatime BBC classic serials, something which has engendered a deep seated dislike within me for both filmed costume drama and literature considered worthy enough to film. I found the former stodgy and suspect the latter may be more to do with BBC cultural filters than anything else.… Read the rest

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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

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Features Live Action Movies

Petrov’s Flu (Petrovy v Grippe)

Director – Kirill Serebrennikov – 2021 – Russia – Cert. 18 – 145m

*****

The stream of consciousness existence of an urban, Russian comic book artist who has the ‘flu – out on VoD on Tuesday, June 28th

Despite being under the weather with the ‘flu, city dweller Petrov (Semyon Serzin) is trying his best to carry on as normal. Not so easy when you’re out of it. His nightmare starts with a bus journey. A nine-year-old girl kindly offers him her seat, but before he’s sat down, someone else seems to have taken it. A misogynist old man talks to the girl, telling her that often girls her age are married off and possibly already cheating on their husbands.

in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday December 15, 2019. (Photo Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

Before the old misogynist knows it, someone has had the bus stopped so the he can be thrown off, losing his false teeth in the process which Petrov picks up and which subsequently function like an intermittent Greek chorus, albeit one that doesn’t make any particular sense, throughout the remainder of the narrative. Then Petrov’s mate Igor (Yuri Kolokolnikov), who’s been pursuing the bus in a hearse, complete with coffined corpse, stops it to commandeer Petrov off the bus and into shooting an automatic rifle at victims as part of an impromptu firing squad.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Men

Director – Alex Garland – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 100m

***

An urban woman dealing with separation and bereavement encounters several men with the same face in an English village – out in cinemas on Wednesday, June 1st

A face passes before the eyes of Harper (Jessie Buckley) as her husband James (Paapa Essiedu) falls to his death from the balcony above their London flat. It’s the Spring. She drives to a house in the country – strictly speaking, in a small rural village – which she’s rented for two weeks to get away from it all.

There, she meets well-to-do landlord Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear) who shows her round the property and hands over the keys. He’s an affable and chivalrous sort of chap who insists of bringing her bags in from the car and can’t stop talking; he might have walked straight in from the previous century or even the one before. He mentions that the TV reception can be a bit iffy, especially when it’s raining, and also recommends a visit to the village pub.

She’s glad when he’s left and promptly calls her partner Riley (Gayle Rankin), who she will be in touch with this way on and off throughout the narrative and who will eventually drive over to see her, the only time we ever see Riley in the flesh.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Dark Water (Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara, 仄暗い水の底から)

Director – Hideo Nakata – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 101m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also, currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme. Currently available to view on Amazon Prime, BFI Player and Shudder.

Review originally published in Funimation UK to coincide with the UK Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release date 14/10/2016.

Jeremy Clarke on Hideo Nakata’s urban ghost story.

At the centre of Hideo Nakata’s film Dark Water (2002) is the powerful bond that exists between a mother and her child. Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of divorce proceedings and while all the financial arrangements have been agreed, the question of who gets custody of the couple’s daughter has yet to be settled. Yoshimi is assured that in cases where the child is less than six years old, the mother tends to get custody. However, her former husband is attempting to discredit her to prevent this happening.

This is all very stressful to Yoshimi. For the time being however she and her almost six year old daughter Iku (Rio Kanno) need to find a place to live.… Read the rest

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Free Guy

Director – Shawn Levy – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

***1/2

A non-player character in a mayhem-riddled video game decides to take matters into his own hands after meeting the girl of his dreams – out in cinemas on Friday, August 13th

Guy (sic) (Ryan Reynolds) works in Free City. In a bank. Every day he selects the same shirt from his wardrobe, gets a coffee from the same barista, goes to work. Where, at specific times like clockwork, there are robberies. He and his buddy, a security guard named Buddy (sic) (Lil Rel Howery) drop to the floor where they then chat about life, love and other issues.

Then, one day, he meets Molotov (Jodie Comer), a gun-carrying girl with a British accent. He feels as if he’s known her forever, like she’s the missing piece in his life. But she’s a Specs. She wears specs. People who wear specs do things people who don’t don’t. Guy decides he’s going to steal specs from the first bank robber who comes along.

What Guy doesn’t know is that he’s an NPC (non-player character) in a video game called Free City. The game is made by a company called Soonami run by Antwan (Taika Waititi).… Read the rest

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Undergods

Director – Chino Moya – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 18+ – 91m

**1/2

Overlapping narratives unfold within a mysterious city which resembles something out of Eastern Europe – in cinemas from Monday, May 17th

In a grey urban environment resembling an unspecified city somewhere in Eastern Europe or possibly Russia, two lorry drivers go about their daily routine of picking up corpses from the street. These two characters form the frame story of what is to follow, although exactly what that is isn’t clear from the narrative’s meandering nature. There are stories within stories wherein the character you think is the main character is suddenly usurped by a different character. Several times over.

That’s a pity because they are potentially very interesting stories, so it’s frustrating to see them consistently half-baked. The anthology film is, after all, a tried and tested format and this film attempts do something radical and new with it. The problem is though, to make that form work you really need to understand its rules before you play around with them, break them, or abandon them altogether. This film seemingly lacks that understanding, or thinks you can throw away the framework and everything will still somehow work.… Read the rest

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Live Action Movies Shorts

Hello

Director – Chan Lok-yi – 2017 – Hong Kong – Cert. N/C 12+ – 23m

*****

A schoolgirl looking for her first alcoholic drink falls in with a poor, unemployed man who likes to drink – online and Free To View in the UK in the Fresh Wave short films strand of Focus Hong Kong 2021 from Tuesday, February 9th to Monday, February 15th

A schoolgirl (Chan Wing Sum) eyes up the canned alcoholic beverage section of the local 7-Eleven. She’s aware of the man (Ng Kam-chuen) at the counter asking, pleading, almost pathetically, “can I pay you next time, please?” Both are losers. After class, her teacher takes her aside and tells her, “unless you do something, you will fail.” 

The man, meanwhile, gets short shrift when he enters a local warehouse looking for work. The extremely busy and smartly dressed manager doesn’t seem to like the look of him but is quite happy to tell someone else, “you’ve come just in time.” 

Our man hangs around the streets near the school.  He’s grateful when a group of self-proclaimed Christians turn up to hand out food to the needy and enjoys a quiet meal out of fast food cartons on a bench in a deserted urban area as a result.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Director – Kirsten Johnson – 2020 – US – 89m

*****

The director imagines the death of her dad in a film which celebrates both the man himself and the art of cinema – on Netflix worldwide from Friday, October 2nd

I was alerted to this movie both because not only was Johnson’s prior Cameraperson (2016) excellent but also the subject matter of this new film looked promising. Johnson spent three decades as the cameraperson on numerous documentaries (among them Farenheit 9/11, Michael Moore, 2004 and Citizenfour, Laura Poitras, 2014) before making her previous feature out of interesting bits and pieces of footage she had lying around. Her new film is highly personal and almost fits into the home movies or personal diary school of film making – lent an inevitable, additional gravitas given Johnson’s prior artistic and technical career.

C. Richard Johnson (b. 1932 – ) is Kirsten Johnson’s dad. One day, like all of us, he is going to die. So his daughter decided that while he was still alive she would make a film about his dying, filming his possible deaths and staging his funeral service ahead of time.

There’s a huge contradiction at the heart of this idea.… Read the rest

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Barking Dogs Never Bite (Flandersui gae)

Director – Bong Joon Ho – 2000 – South Korea – 110m

****1/2

Available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, September 18th.

Lecturer Yun-ju (Lee Sun-jae) is looking out the window of his apartment in a block of flats and having been recently passed over for a professorship is on the phone to a colleague, but can’t concentrate because of a persistent dog barking. He resolves to do something about it. Chancing later upon a dog without an owner near his front door, he takes it up to the roof but then, unable to drop it off the balcony, takes it down to a basement corridor and traps it in an old wardrobe.

Maintenance office worker Park Hyun-nam (Doona Bae) is visited by a little girl in a yellow waterproof to get her missing dog posters officially stamped so that they won’t get taken down.

Hen-pecked by his working, pregnant wife Eun-sil (Kim Ho-jung), Yun-ju learns from a colleague that the person who got the professorship has died so the position should now be his – for a $10 000 bribe. And the barking hasn’t stopped – he got the wrong dog because the little girl’s posters mention that the missing dog can’t bark following a throat op.… Read the rest