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Features Live Action Movies

Holy Spider (Ankabut-e Moqaddas, عنکبوت مقدس)

Director – Ali Abassi – 2022 – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

An Iranian lady crime journalist poses as a prostitute in an attempt to uncover the identity of a serial killer justifying his killing spree in the name of Islam – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th

2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Leaving her small daughter at home, a woman goes out into the night. She changes into high heels in a lavatory then goes onto the streets to ply her trade as a prostitute. She tells a streetcrawler to “fuck off”. In any encounter with male sexuality, violence is never far away; in a frenzied coupling in an apartment littered with the awards of a successful entrepreneur, a client tells her, “I’m going to tear your pussy apart.”

Another man refuses to pay more than half for a blow job when police are seen near the car in which she’s performing the service, preventing him from climaxing. A further man asks her onto his bike, but later in the stairwell to his apartment she thinks she may have made a mistake and tries to excuse herself.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Hunt (Heon-teu, 헌트)

Director – Lee Jung-jae – 2022 – South Korea – Cert. – 121m

****1/2

Two top KCIA operatives, each heading up his own department, both come to believe that the North Korean mole they are hunting is the other out in cinemas Friday, November 4th; opened the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) which ran in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th

Two Korean intelligence men are sitting in a car. One asks the other riddles.

What’s a war in space? Star Wars.

What’s a war in winter? Cold War.

What’s a neverending war? Korean War.

A little background history will add to your enjoyment of this fictional thriller set against the backdrop of actual historical events.

In 1979, a South Korean coup d’état established the country’s fourth dictatorship since WW2. In 1980, with martial law declared, the Gwangju Uprising saw a battle between the military and ordinary citizens in the town of Gwangju in which at least 200 civilians were killed. In 1987, student protests lead to the overthrow of the Fifth Republic Of South Korea (1981-87) and free elections.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Deliver Us From Evil (Daman Akeseo Guhasoseo, 다만 악에서 구하소서)

Director – Hong Won-chan – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 108m

*****

An assassin trying to rescue his ex-girlfriend’s child from organ thieves discovers a rival is after him for killing his brother – Wednesday, October 26th, 20.30 at The Cinema At Selfridges as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; also available to rent on Sky Go, Sky Store, iTunes, Amazon Prime and Google Play

In a darkened building somewhere in Japan, former South Korean government agent turned professional assassin In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) surprises and pacifies then kills his terrified, Japanese-Korean mob boss target. Meanwhile, his former girlfriend Young-joo (Choi Hee-Seo) is in Thailand in the process of putting down the deposit to buy a golf course when her small daughter Yoo-min (Park So-yi) is kidnapped. Desperate, Young-joo attempts to contact In-nam through his boss over the phone, but In-nam has long since told her she must decide between her child and him and as far as he is concerned, she made her decision. He instructs his boss to inform her he is dead.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

New World (Sinsegye, 신세계)

Director – Park Hoon-jung – 2013 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 135m

***

Following a gangster boss’ murder, an undercover cop is caught in the middle of the rival factions’ battle to take over the gang – screening Monday, October 24th, 19.00 at The Cinema Museum as part of a strand of films celebrating actor Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game) at London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) which runs in cinemas from Wednesday, October 19th to Sunday, October 30th; the film is also available on Eureka! Video

Lee Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) is the number two for Shanghai-based gangster Jung Chung (Hwang Jun-min) when someone in the organisation has a lorry drive into the car of their boss Seok (Lee Kyung-young) as he’s returning from a visit to his mistress in the rain, killing him and opening the way for someone else to take over.

When at the hospital Seok is pronounced dead to the assembled gangsters by a surgeon, he’s assaulted by one of Jung Chung’s rival candidates for the succession, Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong). He makes a habit of such actions, tossing away the camera of a carload of journalists “disrespecting” Seok’s funeral only to learn that they are actually cops working for Section Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik), who has been recently promoted from Lieutenant.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Where The Crawdads Sing

Director – Olivia Newman – 2022 – US – Cert. 15 – 125m

***1/2

A young woman who grew up alone in the North Carolina Marshlands is the prime suspect for a murder she may or may not have committed – out in cinemas on Friday, July 22nd

The body of Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) is discovered having fallen to his death from an old, 63’ high viewing platform. But did he fall or was he pushed? The reclusive, local outcast and so-called ‘Marsh Girl’ Kya Clarke (Daisy Edgar-Jones) swiftly becomes the prime suspect after sheriffs find a red, woolly hat at her house, a fibre from which matches one found on Chase’s corpse.

As the investigation proceeds in the generic form of a whodunit by way of a courtroom drama, with the kindly Tom Milton (David Strathairn) as her self-appointed defence attorney against the state prosecutor in her jury trial, the narrative spilts into two separate strands, with the story of Kya’s personal history from childhood to the then present day of 1969 running in parallel until… well, refusing to divulge spoilers forbids me from saying, except that the final reel and the ending are arguably the most satisfying part of this engrossing movie.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

A Far Shore (Tooi Tokoro, 遠いところ)

Director – Masaaki Kudo – 2022 – Japan – 128m

****

An underage Okinawa bar hostess attempts to raise her small son while worsening circumstances conspire against her – world premiere in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) 2022 which runs from Friday, July 1st to Saturday, July 9th

A man in Okinawa club Night Babylon asks her age of a hostess: “you don’t seem very old”. It turns out the girls in question are under 18 (the legal age limit for working there; in Japan, it’s also illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 20). In fact, these girls are 17 and proud of the fact that in “wild Okinawa”, the hostesses in bars are so young. The hostesses in question are Aoi (Kotono Hanase) and her friend Mio (Yumemi Ishida), and when not working, they like to party hard, for instance to celebrate a friend’s birthday, which involves much drinking and dancing in a club. There don’t appear to be any men in their immediate peer group: they’re all women.

Once she returns home from her club night shift, Aoi calls in on her grandmother to pick up her two-year-old son Kengo (Tsuki Hasegawa).… Read the rest

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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 on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday, June 27th and 4K UHD Blu-ray including the soundtrack from Thursday, July 7th

‘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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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

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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