“Despair not, one of the thieves was spared; presume not, one of the thieves was not.” (Saint Augustine)
In a small church on the West coast of Ireland, a man comes into the confessional and tells of his abused childhood at the hands of a paedophile priest; and that in seven days he’s going to kill his confessor (Brendan Gleeson – Troy, In Bruges), precisely for being a good man.
Gleeson’s Father James Lavelle then has a week in which to settle his affairs; a week in a toxic parish of cynicism, disillusion and despair which tests his own faith to the limit. Continue Reading
Stylish and inventive, Jean-Pierre Jeunet has intrigued us with dark fantasies Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, delighted us with Amelie, A Very Long Engagement, and frightened us with the underrated Alien: Resurrection. Micmacs is overloaded with Jeunet tropes and an excess of that rare thing – Gallic whimsy.
Micmacs à Tire-Larigot (“Suspect Activities” or “Jiggery-Pokery” at “Tire-Larigot” – the underground lair filled with extraordinary inventions and sculptures.) wears its’ heart on its’ sleeve. As a darkly comic satire on the arms industry framed in a Robin Hood, Ali Baba, TV’s Mission Impossible ‘caper movie’ it is drenched in Jeunet’s warped humour, a cast of bizarre caricatures, sight gags and nonsensical plotting.
Unfortunate orphan Bazil (Dany Boon) has his bomb disposal officer father blown up by a French landmine, and years later is himself shot with a French bullet. Unemployed and on the street, busking as a Chaplain mime, Bazil falls in with the underground eco-recycling gang of Mama Chow, whose daughters disappeared in a fairground hall of mirrors. Her team of human Wombles includes Slammer (Jean-Pierre Marielle) an elderly master criminal, contortionist Elastic Girl, Remington; a black ethnographer and impersonator; and Buster (Dominique Pinon), comic grotesque and Jeunet regular, a failed human cannonball.
On discovering the rival arms dealers’ factories, and the homes of their ego-maniacal executives, Bazil determines to exact his personal revenge on them both. Continue Reading
The Millenium Trilogy slams into the ‘awkward middle episode’ as a jumble of TV detective fiction with some sex, violence and post-Cold War espionage thrown in to liven things up.
After the excellent, if un-cinematic, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it looked like the adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium novels would be the next hot film franchise. Made swiftly to capitalise on the International success of the first instalment, The Girl Who Played With Fire has all the elements but not quite the, well, fire…
Disjointed and with a disappointingly loopy plot, Noomi Rapace gets credit for saving this also-ran Sunday evening TV mystery. Continue Reading
Remaining largely faithful to the late Steig Larsson’s source novel, this long and TV-styled thriller brings punk hacker Lisbeth Salander to the screen. Michael Nyqvist’s rather dull journalist Blomkvist is shunted aside by Noomi Rapace’s mesmeric performance as the titular heroine.
This is a movie that divides opinion: smart thriller featuring a feminist action-heroine, or an exploitation flick that savours violence against women?
Campaigning journalist Blomkvist loses a libel case against a wealthy businessman, and is offered a working exile by an equally wealthy industrialist. Determined to solve the forty year old disappearance of his niece, Vanger suspects his bickering family of her murder. Salander cannot resist breaking cover to help in the investigation… Continue Reading
Imperial China, AD 208: a big dollop of Chinese history coming up. Liu Bei flees with 100,000 peasants from tyrannical Prime Minister Cao Cao’s million man army, to take refuge with Sun Quan in the Southern state of Wu, joining with the rebel forces of Sichuan. As Cao Cao’s huge navy sails up-river to invade Souther China, the rebels unite their forces at the Fortress of Red Cliff in the hope of defeating their common enemy.
No one is making epic cinema like the Chinese. The modest (by Hollywood standards) $80 million budget feels several times that with the spectacle that is thrown up on screen for the better part of three hours. This is a Chinese war movie that outdoes all the others in the scale of action (Mulan and Confucius included). Continue Reading
“I wish this was all just a dream. I want to wake up in my bed, and over breakfast, I’d tell you that I had a strange dream. Then I would go to school, and you and mom would go to work.”
Archaeologists excavating a Korean War battlefield contact a veteran whose dog-tags identify him as a casualty. Cut to 1950, two brothers are drafted into the South Korean army to fight the Chinese-backed communists. ‘Taegukgi Hwinallimyo’, also known as ‘The Brotherhood of War’ is the Korean war film directed by Kang Je-gyu.
Korean cinema is notoriously uncompromising and this is a tough watch, that makes closest comparisons Saving Private Ryan and Platoon look like The Simpsons. Extreme, extensive battle scenes include excessive violence, blood, gore and suffering, relieved only when the excesses tip over into stylised melodrama. Continue Reading
The legendary story of Mulan, the girl who went to war and saved a nation. No, not the Disney musical, but China’s live-action epic recalls El Cid, The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far and the Sands of Iwo Jima in a sweeping tale of nationalistic pride.
When the Wei nation is threatened by the barbarian raiders of the Rouran tribes, the Wei go to war with a nation-wide draft. Let’s skip over the implausible tale of the enlisted volunteer soldier who is really a girl and keeps her gender concealed throughout the whole campaign and rise to the highest rank.
Nobody does historical epic like the Chinese. Casts of thousands, even before the CGI, sets, costumes, weapons, landscapes; China outdoes the golden age of the Hollywood epic by sheer weight of state resources thrown at the film industry in the world’s most populous country. And in return, the patriotic message of personal sacrifice in the name of Chinese unity and progress weighs down the whole enterprise time after time. Continue Reading
More Manga than Manga
In a dystopian, Orwellian, retro-future of Samurai steam-punk, be prepared for an overdose of Japanese comic-book super-heroism replete with Gothic design, violent death, resurrection, giant robots and buckets of CGI.
Adaptations of Japanese Managa can be an acquired taste, as can the source graphic novels. Japanese studios generally carry these off with great verve and ambition, regardless of the budget or the script. Casshern is right at the peak and despite being eight years old, still carries the banner for this genre of film-making.
Genetic science attempts to roll back the damage of fifty years of war between Europa and the victorious Eastern Federation, in the aftermath of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The miraculous “neo cell” creates a group of super-beings at the head of a forgotten robot army; but a powerful warrior emerges to fight for mankind. Like they do… Continue Reading
A surreal French steam-punk fairy-tale from the warped minds of Delicatessen creators Jeunet and Caro (1995).
In a latter-day Frankenstein castle – an oil platform at the centre of a minefield – a cloned scientist, Krank, prematurely aged and unable to dream, dispatches a cult of rubber-wearing, mechanically-enhanced Cyclops to kidnap innocent children. The genetically enhanced genius Krank would steal their dreams but gets only their nightmares. Their creator long vanished, Krank lives in exile with his makeshift ‘family’ of six younger clones, all played by Dominique Pinon, a dwarf bride, Miss Bismuth (Mireille Mosse) and a migraine-afflicted brain in a tank (Irvin, voiced by Jean-Louis Trintignant).
The Cyclops steal the wrong child when they kidnap Denree (Joseph Lucien), the Little Brother of One (favourite movie ugly bloke Ron Perlman, lately of Hellboy), a sailor and carnival strongman. Aided in his pursuit by a nine-year-old ingenue street thief, Miette (Judith Vittet), One chases them through a city mashed together from Dickensian squallor and the dark alleyways of 1930’s Parisian noir. Continue Reading
Paris, 1912; a reanimated Pterodactyl terrorises the city while our heroine Adele does derring-do in Egypt in search of a cure for her comatose twin sister.
Luc Besson takes a sideways step from his big-budget sci-fi and thrillers (Leon, The Fifth Element) into the slightly surreal 1970’s comic-book world of Jacques Tardi; a ripping-yarn that’s mostly the Mummy meets Indiana Jones with some Conan-Doyle Lost World but all with a Gallic twist (in French with sub-titles)
Freewheeling between set-pieces and a string of farcical sub-plots featuring a collection of well-drawn, but nonetheless cartoon caricatures, heavily influenced by Herge and lovingly rendered on screen. Continue Reading