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Features Live Action Movies

The Dead Don’t Hurt

Director – Viggo Mortensen – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 129m

***1/2

An independently-minded woman whose partner is away fighting a war struggles to survive in the Old West – out in UK and Ireland cinemas on Friday, June 7th

While there is much to admire in this Western, it suffers from unclear flashbacks and parallel editing. Both the trailer (below) and the UK press handouts circumvent this problem by describing a straightforward, chronological narrative (and a fascinating narrative at that). For anyone who doesn’t try to follow plot, this may not be a problem. For those who do, it most definitely is.

Two things happen at the start. One is a shoot out in which Weston Jeffries (Solly McLeod), a nasty bit of work with scant disregard for either decency or law and order, rides away into the evening after shooting various people inside and outside the town’s saloon, including the deputy sheriff. The town is apparently called Elk Flats, Nevada – something I gleaned not from the film (where, if that information is there, it’s easy to miss, and I missed it) but from the production notes.

This is indicative of a problem with the film overall: there are certain key bits of information it needs to tell the audience, which it fails to deliver in a clear, comprehensible way.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Kingdom of the
Planet of the Apes

Director – Wes Ball – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 145m

*****

The fourth entry in the current franchise reboot takes place several generations after the previous three films when apes live in scattered communities and humans have lost the power of speech – out in UK cinemas on Thursday, May 9th

Noa (Owen Teague) has deep-seated feelings of failure. His father is the head of the Eagle Clan, a tribe of chimps who live in symbiosis with trained eagles, and Noa thinks nothing of scaling the highest local rock face to steal his own eagle egg for later bird rearing. He goes on such quests with his two loyal friends, the male Anaya (Travis Jeffery) and the female Soona (Lydia Peckham). He also values the wisdom of Raka (Peter Macon), an orangutan with considerable knowledge of the generations-old teachings of Ceasar.

Noa spots a human girl (Freya Allan) sneaking around the village and environs. A short while later, all hell breaks loose as a cavalry of masked apes attack and burn the village. Noa resolves to leave the safety of the local valley and venture into the land beyond on horseback, accompanied by Raka. They soon realise the non-speaking girl is following on foot, and no sooner have they coax her into joining their quest than they run into first a herd of humans at a small forest pool, then the mounted masked gorillas from whom they must rescue the silent girl.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Rock Hudson:
All That
Heaven Allowed

Director – Stephen Kijak – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 104m

***1/2

Matinée idol Rock Hudson epitomised the Hollywood dream until he died of AIDS in 1985 – documentary portrait available on digital platforms from Monday, 23 October

It was only when Rock Hudson tragically died of AIDS in 1985 that the fact that he was gay entered into the consciousness of the American, movie-going public.

He originally came to Hollywood to pursue an acting career after a stint in the US Navy in the final years of World War Two, signing up with agent Henry Willson. Willson had a knack for renaming actors, and it was he who gave the young Roy Fitzgerald the name Rock Hudson with which he was to achieve stardom. Even so, the twentysomething spent the best part of a decade playing roles in Westerns and adventures before director Douglas Sirk cast him in the romantic melodrama Magnificent Obsession (1954) opposite Jane Wyman. Sirk clearly saw a quality in the actor that no-one else had identified, and a screen legend was born.

Rock Hudson, 1954

Hudson was to prove the perfect fit for the onscreen romantic lead and would play similar roles for much of his career which included not only further roles for Sirk in All That Heaven Allows (1955), again with Wyman, and Written On The Wind (1956), opposite Lauren Bacall, but also starring with James Dean in what was to be the latter’s final film Giant (George Stevens, 1956).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Sisu
(Sisu)

Director – Jalmari Helander – 2022 – Finland – Cert. 15 – 91m

****

A gold miner taking time out from WW2 must get past a Nazi unit in the Lapland wilderness in order to deposit his gold at the bank – entertaining but violent gorefest is out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 26th

1944. Lapland. A man (Jorma Tommila from director Helander’s Big Game, 2014; Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, 2010) has withdrawn from the war to search for gold in the wilderness. The retreating German army, meanwhile, is pursuing a ‘scorched earth’ policy, destroying everything in its path. The man digs. He finds a rich seam of gold. He fills his saddlebags. Now all he has to do is get them to the nearest bank in the nearest town.

He sets off with his horse and his dog. Between him and his destination is a Nazi unit with a ruthless, sadistic commander (Aksel Hennie from The Middle Man, Bent Hamer, 2021, The Martian, Ridley Scott, 2015; Pioneer, Erik Skjoldbjærg, 2013; Headhunters, Morten Tyldum, 2011), a tank and two lorries carrying German infantry and Finnish women prisoners respectively.

All this takes place in a world where everyone, Finns and Germans, speak English.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Ennio: The Maestro
(Ennio)

Director – Giuseppe Tornatore – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 15 – 156m

****

Documentary Ennio: The Maestro looks at the career of Italian film composer Ennio Morricone – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd

It’s difficult to know where to start with Ennio Morricone, whose career in film music covers some 70 years. Tornatore adopts the chronological approach, starting with his early life. The composer’s father was a trumpeter who pushed young Ennio to learn that same instrument, leading to entry into Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory where he studied both trumpet and composition. His father had raised him with a strong work ethic – using the trumpet to feed your family – and much of his early work was as a trumpeter on movie soundtrack sessions, including Othello (Orson Welles, 1951).

His wife secured him a brief stint at TV channel RAI where she was working, but on being told that he wouldn’t be able to perform anything recorded there anywhere else, Morricone quit almost immediately. Inspired by seeing experimental composer John Cage perform live, he formed the Nuovo Consonanza Improvisation Group to experiment with what he called “traumatic sounds”. This approach would inform a number of his later soundtracks.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Tampopo
(タンポポ)

Director – Juzo Itami – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 114m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season, December at BFI Southbank.

This review was first published on All The Anime.

This so-called ‘Noodle Western’ always sounded somewhat off-the-wall. It impressed when it first appeared in 1985 and viewing it again on Criterion’s new Blu-ray, Tampopo has stood the test of time well. “This’ll be famous in the history of cinema” says cast member Fukumi Kuroda in director Juzo Itami’s 90-minute edited diary of making the film, one of many excellent extras on the new disc. 

tampopo box

Kuroda plays the girlfriend of an unnamed, white-suited gangster (a pre-Shall We Dance Koji Yakusho) and the couple share a number of scenes involving sex and food. One involves him putting an egg yolk in his mouth which the couple then pass back and forth between them from mouth to mouth until it finally breaks and spills out onto her dress. You can find out the finer points of how they filmed this by watching the diary. Yakusho also gets a memorable death scene, bloodily gunned down by unseen assailants in a rain-swept. He then proceeds to tell his lady love about wild boar being hunted and turned into yam sausage on account of their diet, before he passes away in her arms.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Calamity.
A Childhood
Of Martha Jane Cannary (Calamity.
Une Enfance
De Martha Jane Cannary)

Director – Rémi Chayé – 2020 – France – 85m

****

A young girl dresses as a man to survive in the Wild West in this extraordinary 2D, colour animated film – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival

Martha Jane Cannary is travelling across the US in a wagon, part of a larger convoy, with her father and her two younger siblings Lena and Elijah. Leading the train is Abraham, an austere and traditional man who isn’t good at taking criticism. Martha Jane has frequent arguments with his son Ethan. Her dad Robert is generally looked down upon, a situation scarcely helped by his wagon’s wheel coming off on a hillside road causing the convoy to grind to a halt or his attempt to lasso a horse to show that he is skilful which ends in his getting two broken ribs and a broken leg when the horse gets out of control.

With her dad unconscious in the back of their wagon, she is assigned Ethan as driver and manages to persuade him to let her try driving. She also borrows a pair of her dad’s jeans as she finds them much easier to get around in than the dress she’s supposed to wear.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

First Cow

Director – Kelly Reichardt – 2019 – US – Cert. N/C 15+ – 122m

***1/2

Western (set in Oregon!) in which a drifter and an immigrant join forces to surreptitiously milk a rich man’s first cow and better their lot – in UK cinemas from Friday, May 28th

A woman with a dog (Alia Shawcat) discovers two human corpses in the present day Oregon woods. Flashback to the nineteenth century. Cookie (John Magaro), a drifter, is the cook attached to a party of trappers travelling through the woodlands. He’s a poor scavenger for food and as a result, they are starving – with much acrimony directed towards him. As soon as they find a small settlement, he departs company and lets the trappers go on their way without him. He watches a rich local take delivery of his first cow with plans for buying a mate and breeding a herd later on.

Cookie falls in with Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee) who has a hut nearby. They bond over a bottle of wine at King-Lu’s shack in the woods and become friends. Finding the cow wandering near their dwelling, they hatch a plan to milk it secretly at night (cookie milks while King-Lu keeps watch from a nearby tree) and use the milk as an ingredient in oily cakes, which they start selling at the settlement and which become a huge success overnight.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Bone Tomahawk

Director – S.Craig Zahler – 2015 – US – 18 – 132m

*****

Western with cannibals substituted for Red Indians proves hugely entertaining – on BFI Player from Monday, December 14th

Watching Bone Tomahawk is to watch a series of Wild West vignettes with a small number of characters in different locations – a primitive burial ground, a living room, a sheriff’s office, a crime scene in a stable, camp fires on a cross-country trail, a cave occupied by cannibals. It is also to follow a series of characters – a sheriff (Kurt Russell) given to shooting suspicious people in the legs, a foreman (Patrick Wilson) with an injured leg, his wife (Lili Simmons) a medical practitioner, a ladies man (Matthew Fox) with a reputation for killing Indians and an enthusiastic, second deputy sheriff (Richard Jenkins) eager to do the job. With a masterful understanding of characterisation, the script outwits its audience at every turn while the cast do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life on the screen. Made on a shoestring budget, it’s a real pleasure to watch, a reminder of just how great the best movies can be.

Original UK theatrical release date 19/02/2016.

Reviewed for Third Way, which ceased publication in April 2016.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

The End

Director – Wiebe Bonnema – 2019 – Netherlands – 4m 36s

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

I had to blink while I was watching this. Its opening two minutes play out like the animated title sequence of a spaghetti Western, and if you’ve seen a few of those you’ll know that a number sport superb 2D animation titles which this little short so brilliantly pastiches. This goes further in a way, simultaneously playing with genre clichés while depicting a gunfighter saving a town from despots. As he passes through, white squares standing for people’s windows wipe onto the screen.

This opening cleverly gets around one of the inherent problems with the short animated (or for that matter non-animated) film, the necessity for credits. Usually, these are boringly placed at the end as white titles creeping up the screen over a black background. But having got all that out of the way in his opening, which incidentally functions as the perfect calling card for selling himself as a maker of amazing titles sequences, Wiebe has space to explore what happens after the generic story is over. What happens after the hero rides off into the sunset?

The graphic genius already exhibited continues in what follows: a long, slow, single shot horse ride away from camera into the distance.… Read the rest