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Animation Features Movies

Ghost In The Shell (Kokaku Kidotai, 攻殻機動隊) (1995)

Director – Mamoru Oshii – 1995 – Japan, UK, US – Cert. 15 – 83m

****1/2

A cybernetically rebuilt, female, government agent and her male sidekick pursue a mysterious computer hacker known as The Puppet Master through Hong Kong Digital IMAX version plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

Review originally published in What’s On In London in 1996.

Ghost In The Shell is the first (and hopefully not the last) anime feature to be jointly financed by America, Japan and Britain (our very own Manga Entertainment). Although superficially pigeonholeable as teenage boy’s market material (nothing wrong with that per se), Ghost is considerably more intelligent than that implies. Its plot is highly complex: suffice it to say that cybernetically rebuilt female agent Kusanagi and male sidekick Bateau are pursuing a mysterious computer hacker known as The Puppet Master through Hong Kong.

Kusanagi, who makes her first appearance stripping off her clothing, jumping off a skyscraper roof and crashing through a window below to riddle a criminal pleading “diplomatic immunity” with bullets, employs thermoptic camouflage which renders her invisible to the naked eye in a matter of seconds. It’s an impressive touch, additionally furnishing such great moments as a fugitive ankle-deep in an urban canal suddenly finding himself hit, gripped and thrown around by an invisible assailant.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Belle (Ryu to Sobakasu no Hime, 竜とそばかすの姫)

Director – Mamoru Hosoda – 2021 – Japan – Cert. PG tbc – 121m

*****

A bereaved, teenage girl starts to emerge from her shell when she signs up for a virtual world on her smartphone – out in cinemas on Friday, February 4th; Digital IMAX version plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

‘U’ is an internet, virtual world of high tech, futuristic architecture. When you sign up, you receive your own personalised avatar built from your biometrics. You have the chance to start over in a new world.

Teenager Suzu (voice: Kaho Nakamura) could do with that chance. She lives with her dad (voice: Koji Yakusho from Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda, 2018; The Third Murder, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017; Pulse, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2001; Shall We Dance, Masayuki Suo, 1996; Tampopo, Juzo Itami, 1985) in a small town somewhere in the East of Japan. She doesn’t really communicate with people at her school – not Luka (Tina Tamashiro), the sax player in the school band, not Kamishin (Shota Sometani from To The Ends Of The Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019; First Love, Takashi Miike, 2019; Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017; The Boy And The Beast, Mamoru Hosoda, 2015; Himizu, Sion Sono, 2011) who set up the canoe club but hasn’t been able to attract any members, not Shinobu (Ryo Narita) who proposed to her – well, told her he wanted to protect her – when she was six.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Ambulance

Director – Michael Bay – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 136m

****

Two bank robbers shoot an LAPD officer then hijack as a getaway vehicle the ambulance that came to rescue him – out in cinemas on Friday, March 25th

In need of money for his wife’s experimental cancer treatment, army veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II from The Matrix: Resurrections) approaches Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal), the brother he grew up with in his adoptive family. Said family’s patriarch was unfortunately a career criminal and psychopath, and the former element can be found in Danny. Will expects he might get roped into some minor criminal activity, but what he absolutely isn’t expecting is to become part of the $32m heist.

Danny thinks on his feet, and has to improvise when a cop unaware there’s a robbery in progress talks his way into the bank hoping to chat up one of the tellers. Officer Zach (Jackson White) becomes first hostage then casualty, shot point-blank in the heat of the moment by Will. Hearing the “officer down” alert, highly proficient paramedic Cam Thompson (Eiza González) arrives in her ambulance on the scene only to be hijacked by the robbers and their victim, who becomes her patient she intends to keep alive.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Belfast

Director – Kenneth Branagh – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12a – 98m

*****

1969, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The life of a young boy and his family is impacted by The Troubles as Christian sectarianism explodes into violence on their street – out in cinemas on Friday, January 21st

Bookended by colour images of contemporary Belfast, Northern Ireland, this swiftly traverses a colour montage to pan up a wall to the black and white photographed 1969 beyond. The closing moments also feature the genuinely touching legend, “For the ones who stayed, For the ones who left, And for the ones who were lost.”

Elsewhere, apart from family trips to the cinema to see the likes of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Ken Hughes, 1968), where the clips from the movie and light reflected from it onto the black and white audience are in colour, everything else (including other aspects of the family cinema-going experience) is entirely in black and white.

The first ten minutes are a particularly tough watch, as images of kids playing footy, hopscotch or knights in armour (wooden swords and dustbin lids) in the streets give way to nine-year-old Buddy (ten-year-old Jude Hill) returning home to find men with clubs breaking windows on his street, hurling Molotov cocktails and shouting, “get these fockers off your street.”… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Raging Fire (Nou Fo, 怒火)

Director – Benny Chan – 2021 – Hong Kong – Cert.15 – 126m

***1/2

A cop comes up against his former disillusioned protégé who is now the mastermind behind a criminal gang – in cinemas from Friday, November 12th

A big deal is about to go down. Uber-honest cop Cheung Sung-bong (Donnie Yen) heads a unit constantly in trouble with his superiors owing to his refusal to take pay offs and play their corruption game. They consequently repeatedly block him from accessing supplies and equipment he and his men need to properly do their job. This has gone on for years, with officers cracking under the inevitable strain from time to time. One such is his protégé Yau Kong-ngo (Nicholas Tse), booted off the force for beating a suspect to death. Cheung has kept in touch with him in the interim.

The night of the big deal, Cheung is denied his team’s required equipment and consequently arrives late to the scene of the incident. The absence of Cheung’s expertise on site causes a fellow police colleague to be killed along with various gang members. Unbeknownst to Cheung, the second gang involved in the deal – which double-crosses the first – is headed up by the disillusioned Yau.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Moment Of Romance (Tin Joek Yau Ching, 天若有情)

Director – Benny Chan – 1990 – Hong Kong – Cert.18 – 92m

***1/2

When a biker and gang member on the lam from a jewel heist takes a well-to-do girl hostage then falls for her, their romance is doomed – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

Gang member Wah (Andy Lau) is the archetypal bad boy who, in the opening sequence, speeds through a narrow gap between two lorries and wilfully breaks a wing mirror on a stationary police vehicle as he rides past. Director Chan keeps up the mayhem with a sequence of two competing lorries on a makeshift racing circuit, each with a pretty girl standing on top – until one of them crashes into a stationery car sending the falling girl through its windscreen and scattering the onlookers as the police approach.

Ascendant gang member Trumpet seems to have it in for Wah and puts him on getaway car duty for a jewel heist. Wah must improvise when cops happen by chance to turn up outside the building while the crime is in progress and during the ensuing pursuit by car, in which he gets the robbers successfully away from the scene, and on foot, his only way of escaping the cops is to take an innocent bystander hostage.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Love Exposure (Ai No Mukidashi)

Director – Sion Sono – 2008 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 237m

*****

Originally published in Third Way to coincide with the UK DVD release date 11/01/2010.

Currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Cult Japan section together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Blu-ray on sale for a bargain £10 in Arrow Video’s sale.

There are very good reasons why this has an 18 certificate in the UK; younger readers should probably stop reading this review NOW!

A four hour marathon which races past the viewer at breakneck speed covering father-son relationships, Catholicism, sin, teen gangs, martial arts stunts, upskirt photography, violence, swordplay, castration, porno movie production, religious cults and more will sound to many like a film to avoid at all costs. Viewing, however, reveals a must see religious movie. (And many other things too – compelling comedy action drama, for instance.)

A Tokyo family of devout Catholics is emotionally ripped apart when the young mother dies, leaving teenage son Yu (Takahiro Nijishima) with instructions that the Girl Of His Dreams will appear to him as the Virgin Mary. Husband/father Tetsu (Atsuro Watabe) compensates for his loss by entering the priesthood and forcing the boy to attend confession regularly.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Shorta (US title: Enforcement)

Directors – Anders Ølholm, Frederik Louis Hviid – 2020 – Denmark – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

As racial tensions simmer, two white cops become trapped on a vast, no-go housing estate – out in cinemas and on digital from Friday, September 3rd

‘Shorta’ is Arabic slang for ‘police’. An Arab suspect is interrogated and beaten in a Danish police cell, resulting in his hospitalisation. The story is all over the TV news. With tensions running high, and set to run even higher should the questioned man die as seems highly likely, the police are instructed not to enter the area of Svalegarden, a vast housing estate where many Arabs live.

With two officers under investigation for the treatment of the suspect, Jens Høyer (Simon Sears) is partnered with their trigger-happy buddy Mike Andersen (Jacob Hauberg Lohmann) with instructions from the captain to keep Mike on a leash during these difficult circumstances. In the course of their eight-hour shift, they pursue a car with Arab occupants which leads them into the forbidden Svalegarden estate, where after hassling the car’s occupants and getting nowhere, Mike pulls over a teenage boy Amos (Tarak Zayat) for no reason other than the colour of his skin and the way he looks at them.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Beasts Clawing At Straws (Jipuragirado Japgo Sipeun Jimseungdeul, 지푸라기라도 잡고 싶은 짐승들)

Director – Kim Yong-hoon – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

A number of individuals in dire financial straits do whatever they can to get hold of a bag of money – on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 6th and Digital from Monday, August 23rd

Seemingly disparate plot strands suggest a group of separate stories about to be narrated in parallel, but in fact they’re all part of the same story and eventually converge in this compelling thriller involving an ensemble of characters and a bag of money. A number of the characters are in dire and indeed impossible financial circumstances with no obvious way out. The bag of money, when it turns up in each of their lives, represents a possible escape route for each of them.

Lowly bathhouse attendant Jung-man (Bae Seong-woo) finds the abandoned carryall stuffed full with wads of banknotes in a locker on the premises. Of course, the right thing to do would be to hand it in to his boss, but his boss is a nasty piece of work who fires any employee who’s late twice. Besides, Jung-man’s incontinent mother (Youn Yuh-jung) who lives in his home has dementia, refuses to wear incontinence pads and makes life hell for his wife who works a menial cleaner’s job at the airport.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

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