Film Reviews by Strovey

Welcome to Strovey's film reviews page. Strovey has written 184 reviews and rated 218 films.

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An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn

Being Absurd Can Be a Good Thing Sometimes....

(Edit) 15/06/2022

From the man you brought you The Greasy Strangler, which you either hated or loved apparently, [I have not seen it], here is another equally divisive film.

Right from the get-go we have to An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is going to make some people very angry, very bored and they will hate it. I understand why that would be because Jim Hosking’s film is most definitely a specific taste, and I would say after ten minutes you are either going to continue watching or turn it off and get on with something else.

The story is almost inconsequential and slight, but to Hoskings and writer David Wike’s credit there is a story that progresses and if you invest you do want to see what happens.

Overall though An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is an absurdist comedy first and foremost. Everything you see on the screen is a deliberate, conscious effort to deconstruct acting and filmmaking. Lines by talented actors are delivered stilted with no nuance, background characters deliver their lines out of context, bellowing for instance, grimacing, it is all for want of a better word ‘weird’. But, and here is the rub, it does drag you in, some styles like this can push the viewer away, and I will admit I can be repelled by this type of film, but Hosking had enough film-making skill and a good enough cast to draw me in.

One look at the top-billing and anyone with an average film knowledge would know what they were in for. Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement were made for this film and just turned up on the first day of filming without being asked, Matt Berry, again perfect for this type of role and drop in Craig Robinson and Emile Hirsch and you are ready to roll. Hirsch is stand-out as an alternate universe Jack Black entirely unrecognisable as the handsome actor you are normally used to.

Add to the mix the locations, bright colour palette, costumes and hair all following the same erratic and winding path and you somehow get a film that drags you in and wraps you up in a world that we know does not exist but does at the same time. It should not work but it does.

The music, all synths and electric as with other aspects of the film should not work but somehow it does, it is vivid and at times clashing but somehow it fits.

The absurdist comedy and set pieces in general work and the misses are few and far between so that film zip along with too much slack which truth be told is a pleasant thing in any type of film these days.

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is an extremely peculiar film but is engagingly entertaining like the strange kid at school who was never quite in line with anyone else but still interesting. All the main actors play to their quirky onscreen personas which fits what you see perfectly and although I have criticised Aubrey Plaza for not expanding on this in so many films her she almost plays the straight role and I found her dancing at the end strangely alluring.

This film is weird, daft, funny and odd but never, ever boring, even if you hate it I feel the makers will believe it has worked. As Andy Kaufman said, ‘At least you felt something’.

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Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers

Being Ordinary is not Ordinary....

(Edit) 02/06/2022

Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers is first and foremost a comedy but beneath that ‘wrapper’ the director and writer Satoshi Miki is trying to make comments about life in the city, the isolation that comes with this and the mundanity of being really ordinary. Bearing this in mind the targets have been hit more often than missed with Japanese stereotypes on full display.

The story, narrated by Suzume, is a series of sketches at times nonsensical and unconnected which can easily frustrate the unwary viewer, but Miki skilfully weaves throughout all the cartoonish action and set pieces the real message, what is normal? What is ordinary? Indeed, is it as desirable or undesirable as we can be led to believe?

Without doubt the laugh hits are higher than the misses, with some being genuinely ‘laugh out loud’ moments but the actors, and in particular Juri Ueno, are charming and good company, and mix in bright colours and ideas and you are getting a typical and non-typical Japanese comedy all at once. If you find that sentence confusing then you will get some idea how the film will leave you feeling.

The film is fun and joyful with some obvious parodies there to see (teen romance anyone?) and there could be less narration and more show throughout the runtime but with an obviously low budget the joyfulness of the wacky situations and characters should win over the most confused movie goer.

The trick is to relax and let Satoshi Miki’s weirdness flow over you, do not worry too much and enjoy the company of his band of fools.

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Cyborg She

If the Terminator came to love you...

(Edit) 22/05/2022

Cyborg She, a mistranslation, is a charming movie that from where I viewed it seems to be a light-hearted romantic remake of Terminator, which is as mad as it sounds. The entire film focuses mainly on the two leads to the exclusion of any other characters, with the exception of Jiro’s obligatory comic friend played by Kiritani Kenta. Thank goodness that the alluring and beautiful Haruka Ayase and Keisuke Koide have good chemistry and the occasional pantomime gurning from the latter did not detract from this.

Haruke Ayase had the more challenging role having to be an entirely emotionless robot and another similar role [I will not spoil this though] which she managed confidently.

Director and writer Jae-young Kwak manages to mix in some drama, romance and sentimentality that should have some of the hardest filmgoers dabbing at the corner of their eye. Cyborg She approached in the right frame of mind is an enjoyable two-hour romp through the multi-layered life of Jiro, with two main characters that will keep you invested in their story throughout. No mean feat.

The visual and special effects, whilst not all top-notch are particularly good when they need to be, as the story reaches its climactic conclusion.

Here we span centuries, disasters, time-jumping and heroic robots but at its heart is a romantic comedy with all the warmth and fun that genre should bring, which is a credit to Jae-young Kwak. If there is to be any criticism I would say the editing, especially near the end needed to be tighter to make the story’s conclusion clearer and coherent but that is a quibble. You will understand the main gist of the film regardless of how you get there.

If you were to say you throw in Terminator, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, I Robot and Back to the Future into a big pot boil them all up to make a romantic comedy you could be forgiven for predicting a horrible mess. Although some aspects of the story might be a tad difficult to follow at times Cyborg She is far from this.

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Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Well Written Love Letters are a good thing...

(Edit) 26/04/2022

It could be said that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is pandering to the ultra-fans and old people who, now arthritic and grey, long after the original Ghostbusters. True the set-up follows on from the previous story and a not-to-surprising reveal at the end brings us full circle. The observant will notice set pieces and effects as clear and obvious nods to the original but come on folks, Ivan Reitman is the original director’s son, so to some extent it is in his blood. After the huge pile-on for Ghostbusters [2016] some of which was deserved but a lot of was extremely vindictive the makers of ‘Afterlife’ saw what happened and could have been forgiven for making a simple update treatment like Disney Star Wars sequels – rinse and repeat and keep the disgruntled happy.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is not a simple repaint of an old ship. If you watch the beautifully crafted and framed shots, vistas as wide as a fan’s smile, gorgeous set-up scenes bathed in beautiful golden ethereal light, exquisitely captured and directed by cinematography Eric Steelberg, you could be forgiven if points thought you were watching an entirely different type of film. I was mesmerised by some simple scenes. To add to this many horror filmmakers would do well to watch this film to see how some scenes that are ‘scary’ do not need to be shot in murky unwatchable dark. To say I was impressed by this aspect of the film is an understatement.

Simple said Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a heartfelt and splendid love letter to the original duo of films. You can see it in the top-notch casting, the coherent story and the enormous sense of fine the runs throughout the running time.

The film builds up the story slowly which allows good character development, so you know who is who and why they are there. All along the way we have clever Easter eggs to the original story and characters, with one of my favourites Annie Potts popping up early on.

To the credit of the makers, the film does not overly rely on too much CGI and on-screen effects and for some of the criticism levelled at this take on Ghostbusters I just cannot see this as a rehash or reboot but a careful attempt to continue the story, or legacy if you prefer, of the original films.

There are touching moments throughout and although the ending seems a bit rushed and too on-the-nose Ghostbusters: Afterlife for me is a well-made slice of love to the original films, with very good casting and acting and some stunningly simple and beautiful cinematography that takes it above and beyond a simple love-letter, which it is, to those 1980s films.

Quite simply Ghostbusters: Afterlife is enjoyable fun but with that extra polish and sparkle that takes it beyond the run-of-the-mill.

I really liked it.

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Ron's Gone Wrong

Seem's Ron went right....

(Edit) 21/04/2022

Ron’s Gone Wrong is the first animation by Locksmith Animation and as such, it is a fine strong effort. The story is modern and will be relevant to the target audience although not ground-breaking and does not say anything new.

The film itself moves with a good pace with all the acts or set-ups moving smoothly into the next so that the viewers' interest does not wain. The entire story focuses on Ron the robot and Barney the lonely ‘weird kid’ with peripheral characters dropping in and out to create situations or move the story along.

The voice acting is good throughout and helps flesh out the characters with the unrecognisable Zach Galifianakis excelling in the difficult role of Ron.

The message of the film is earnest and hopefully not wasted on the modern young viewers because no matter how ‘pat’ or familiar it seems it is true that fame is fleeting, the stupid things that happen to us and mistakes we make are not eternal and we should like our friends for who they are not how much like us they are. Certainly, these points are made well and a soft mallet is used, not always the case in these types of films, especially when aimed at younger audiences.

The comedy is clearly aimed at the younger film watcher so moments where I did not laugh or felt seemed forced should not really count against the film or my viewing enjoyment as they really were never on the screen for me and there was enough fun and joy in the story which was universal anyway.

If anything parts of the story and in particular the characters introduced seemed to be building towards something that was never resolved for me. It is as if a different film was written and storyboarded and changed several times but the makers forgot that a few scenes or lines still pointed towards parts that were no longer in the story. Nothing major but I found it noticeable as I was anticipating something occurring further down the running time.

Overall, Ron's Gone Wrong is a good voice-acted, well-animated slice of fun that does get a message across about the modern social media, connection-obsessed world. It does it with some heart and a sense of fun and you cannot really say they're preaching because that is the whole story's intent.

Ron's Gone Wrong is a good slice of animation hokum, it is not award-winning, but neither is it cookie-cutter here we go again. A good effort and not disappointing to watch. Ron Went Right you could say.

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Sun and sand what more could you want? Oh yeah, the worms.

(Edit) 20/03/2022

This could be the best way to approach this long-awaited big-budget and modern version of Dune. I knew it was about great dynastic houses who control a desert world and there were lots of intrigue and double-crossing on a grand scale and that was about it.

If you are going to make this grand science-fiction vista there really is only one director for it, a man who has proven repeatedly he has the ear for grounded science-fiction Denis Villeneuve.

With the help of his screenplay team of Spaihts and Roth he has crafted what is a complex and wide-ranging story into something that is watchable and more importantly understandable and engaging. No mean feat. The only concession that was made, and it was understandable, was that this was always going to have to be a ‘part one’ the story is too large and impossible to truncate into a single film, even a three-hour film. I can confirm that this has worked. I know members of my immediate family who know nothing about Dune and are not really science fiction aficionados who really liked the film and understood what was going on.

The effects, costume and set designs are perfect for this story and I could wax lyrical about them but saying perfect really does sum up that whole look and feel of the story.

The story is definitely has a feel of Star Wars and Game of Thrones, with exploding rockets and laser blasts, even a ‘power’ and waring families that are trying to be in control of…well everything but the most important and valuable resources. But if you want to deconstruct further this really is very Shakespearian in the sweep and feel of the story.

If there is any criticism the House of Atreides is too heroic and any who do not finish the film’s run time all meet their demise in heroic ways. A bit pat to say the least.

Another strength for the film is some particularly good casting, everyone here is placed into their role due to their strengths, Jason Momoa, frankly annoying as Aquaman, is great as the ‘jock’ style best friend of Paul. Oscar Isaac, always excellent value for money, is the heroic Henry V of Dune and Rebecca Ferguson as a water-downed Lady Macbeth perhaps? I am going too far and losing this analogy, but it was so easy to do.

This brings us to the lynchpin that the whole film revolves around, Timothée Chalamet, even with a great screenplay, effects and set design this can only disguise a poor film or performance so far. Fortunately, Chalamet is a good actor and in the right role, here modern dreamboat and louche works well with the character of what some would see, within this world, as a spoiled privileged brat. This is the reason I think he did not work so well in Little Women, too modern, even for an update of a period piece.

Skarsgård is good as the Jabba of this story, slimy, self-seeking and repulsive, although why anyone in the story would trust him enough to do a deal with him makes little to no sense. His henchman is the mountainous Dave Bautista, very on dimensional, and just plain evil. Why do evil henchmen spend so much time in the gym is beyond me, but Bautista works with what he has and works well.

Dune is not difficult to follow, does not drag its feet and is intriguing and good enough for me and my family members who watched it to look forward to part two.

Which I shall.

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In Order of Disappearance

Visit the beautiful Norway, see the Northern Lights or a drug-war shoot-out....

(Edit) 19/03/2022

Stellan Skarsgård is the familiar face for most movie-goers in this Norwegian-Scandinavian crime-thriller-comedy. He is an angel of death for the mobsters in the chilly North much like Liam Neeson was in the virtual shot-for-shot remake Cold Pursuit. Skarsgård fills the role as the unlikely action hero better, more realistically or comically even in this film due the fact that whatever you think of his fine acting skills he really does not look like a man who would shout at you let alone bring ‘righteous justice’ upon your head.

Billed as a comedy it must be said there are few if any belly laughs in the runtime but more than a couple of ‘snorts’ or giggles. Perhaps the dark humour flew over my head, or it is a cultural thing, but I just failed to see the laughs. The absurdity of the set-up was there, and I suppose some deaths were predictable silly but people being killed one after the other is not that funny. I must disclose that while I like parts of Tarantino’s output I do not particularly find the constant ‘amusing’ deaths and murders particularly funny in his stories. The Coens are better at this type of humour, you could say they have that elusive twinkle in the eye.

In Order of Disappearance tries hard to be in the same universe as Tarantino or the Coens but it gets an honourable mention only.

The English name for the film comes from each chapter wherein a black name card appears on the screen naming the victim, their full name and dates of birth and death, which was a detail that I thought was amusing and well done.

Playing off against the talented Skarsgård in what is basically a three-hander is the late Bruno Ganz, immortalised in meme forever as the ranting Adolf Hitler, and Pål Sverre Hagen in some way a tall, lean, serious Norwegian version of Nicolas Lyndhurst, both actors highly successful in their own markets but perhaps not so well-known in the English language film market like Skarsgård. Ganz is impressive as the old patriarch that rules absolute, and Hagen must be a first as a vegan, divorced psychopathic drug baron. For my sensibilities he was too over-the-top as he tried to show how unbalanced he was whilst trying to stay ‘controlled’ but having said this it may have been tailored to the style and feel of the story. He was certainly memorable.

The crisp snowy backdrop is very Fargo and a beautiful stylish setting. The set piece murders and disposals whilst gory are also stylised and dare I say a bit silly at times, and this is where the film caused me the most consternation. I liked the setting, the acting seems suited to the story, but the mood or feeling is somehow off.

Initially the gangsters, the murders, are played straight and unpleasant but as we move along it is as if two different versions of the scripts got muddled up. Suddenly a cold calculated gangster does the most stupid thing anyone would do in a situation. Impossible set-pieces pop up with unlikely outcomes and finally the last five or ten minutes appear to be an alternate ending accidentally left in the final cut.

In Order of Disappearance or Kraftidioten which does not translate to English satisfactorily, is well-made, acted and beautifully shot but the writing by Kim Fupz Aakeson cannot seem to settle for what the tale is. This is disappointing because a very impressive film is just below the snowy surface of this movie.

It might pay to watch this film alongside Cold Pursuit, which I have not seen, to find out which one bears up the best. Oddly enough, throughout the runtime I had a peculiar feeling of déjà vu although I know I have seen neither film, I could not shake it. Not sure if that says something about In Order of Disappearance or me.

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Ghostbusters 3

Don't be afraid of no ghosts, be afraid of the people who go sooooo angry about this film

(Edit) 18/03/2022

Who would have thought that in 2022 one of the most controversial films I would have given an opinion about was an all-female-lead remake of 1984’s Ghostbusters? But this is the world we live in nowadays. So let us start with a concise summary, Ghostbusters (2016) is nowhere near as awful as people made out six years ago and ever since. It is entertaining enough. It is not a great film and so flawed it could open a shop to sell the excess flaws it has but equally it has not precipitated the end of the world and Leslie Jones is not the Devil Incarnate.

It is fair to question the wisdom of remaking the original Ghostbusters, but it is likewise fair not to judge it on a film that was 32 years old and viewed through the prism of youth and in various people’s cases childhood. What you remember then and what occurs now are not only different countries but different planets. Clearly people clearly cannot let go of the past and have not really grown up.

Having said this, I am not going to be the champion of Feig’s Ghostbusters either. Using all female leads is well-intentioned and actually a promising idea but it is executed poorly. The main problem? This brings nothing new to the story, other than gender. That is it. If we are going to champion female actors and make films for them, and we should, there is plenty of room in the world of filmmaking, give them something to work with, give them a distinctive voice, say this is what women bring to this world. Too many times, with the best intentions I am sure, producers, writers, directors, even the actors themselves look at a story or film and just replace all the male leads with female leads, put a reference to tampons or other ‘women thing’ in and say, ‘job done’. It is not, it is lazy thinking, pat and doing a huge disservice.

Herein lies the rub, Ghostbusters is a giant Saturday Night Live sketch, with female members of that cast, and somehow what could be a strong point is fumbled.

Considering the extended version of this Ghostbusters is well over 2 hours long we have no real character development and just seem to pop onto CGI ghost set piece to the next set piece. I still could not really work out what suitably weird and creepy villain Rowan North [Neil Casey] was trying to do and in the end gave up trying to figure it out. Watch the ghostly stuff and laugh at any funny bits. This is how you spend your time but it does not necessarily make a good film.

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Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku Flats

Some Men are not all they seem.....

(Edit) 17/03/2022

Fuku-Chan of the Fukufuku Flats is an odd Japanese film, mainly comedic it shoehorns in mental illness, loneliness, romance and unbreakable friendships alongside mystery and even perhaps tragedy. It sounds Shakespearian and in a way you could say it is – but with a modern Japanese twist.

The pace is gentle and slow-building and of course you get what someone from my part of the world might say is over-the-top gurning and histrionics, but truth be told this is main staple of Japanese films, in particular comedies, so I must guess from a position of ignorance that it is a culture thing.

The film is a usual Japanese mix of comedic and insane situations with extremely odd buy endearing humans thrown into strange and confusing situations mixed with a calm and stoic sense of not belonging, not quite being in tune with the world they live in. Yet the world this sits in is not only odd but cruel and hard too. Not 100% Japanese filmmakers trait but a definite wheelhouse Japanese directors and writers live in. If you like this style or storytelling you will enjoy Fuku-Chan, there is a definite lagging and bagginess at the midpoint but not enough to detract from the overall story.

The performances are at worst ‘okay’ and at best particularly good. The main ‘central’ character is Fuku-Chan ‘himself’ played with astonishing insight and skill by well-known Japanese comedian Miyuki Ohshima, it would be a lie to say that I did not realise it was a female playing a man, certain ways of walking and postures, no matter how hard she tries does show through and perhaps she tries too hard on some male traits but overall a very successful performance. Why? Well, it does not really matter as it works but certainly I did not feel that Ohshima brought anything different to the performance or character that I could discern. This is not a criticism because as I said it works.

The supporting characters who orbit Fuku-Chan are played convincingly enough that you would are happy to spend time with them and be happy, sad and joyful for them, Even the most perplexing and mentally disturbed character is rounded enough.

Fuku-Chan OF Fukufuku Flats is an entertaining film that gives enough pause to make you think and ends on a positive note. It will not change your worldview and will not stay with you for days and weeks afterward but that in itself is not a negative. It is a well-made thoughtful Japanese comedy film that depending on your exposure to Japanese films and personal sense of humour will make you laugh or not. Hopefully, it might make you seek out other films from these sources and for me this is a good world.

Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku Flats is not a world-beater but hopefully it can open viewers to other cinematic worlds.

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Men and Chicken

Nobody thought of the chickens.....well Elias did but that's enough about that.

(Edit) 16/03/2022

Mads Mikkelsen is well-known in the English-speaking world nowadays having successful work in both major movie outings and TV shows. I have to say from my own perspective his, lesser-known, Danish work is much more interesting and thought-provoking and without doubt downright weird. Mikkelsen along with Kass, Bro and a few other Danish thespians work as what most probably can be called a troupe with director/writer Anders Thomas Jensen, who himself was on the fringes of the Dogme movement, so if you dig out Mikkelsen’s work after viewing his more mainstream stuff you should be aware of what branch of the tree it grows from.

From ballet dancing to Jensen and onto Star Wars. An odd journey for Mikkelsen and a metaphor for this film in some way.

Men & Chicken is not an easy watch. Gabriel is the most likable or relatable character in the entire movie and everyone else is repulsive or just too odd. Yet somehow they are funny and despite themselves and how you see them, it is difficult not to warm to each of them as the film moves along.

Be warned there is little that is taboo in the runtime and nothing that is not addressed either directly or indirectly and we are stranded on the odd and uninviting island of Ork.

The film really gets running once we reach the island which and this is not apparent to start with appears to Dr. Moreau’s Island run by Fred Karno’s Army. The brothers live in a run down and revolting large mansion where animals run freely, some odd animals too, and they seem to spend their time bickering over family rules and trivial things, the dinner plate is a disturbingly odd and strange example, like all familiar conceits but taken to odd and disturbing extremes.

It is by any standard an awful thing to view but you cannot look away.

Depending on your point of view Men and Chicken is not an easy watch, there are those that might be offended or bored and turn off, others will love this. It really is, for want of trite observation, a true Marmite film.

The entertainment is there. Violence, mainly played for realistic and painful laughs, sexual deviance, oh yes it is there, gross-out humour, dark, pitch-black, comedy and as with much of Jensen’s output a final and positive outlook on the world and his characters. This is definitely a trademark.

Men & Chicken is an odd and weird look at the dynamics of an extremely dysfunctional family and people, you do not really want to spend any time with them, but the longer you do the more you stay. It is a car-accident slowdown to view type of film. The acting is exactly what is needed for the story, Anders keeps it zipping along at a good pace, very little slack to let the mind wander, and overall if you can put you with some gross ideas – especially what Gabriel gets up to – it is worth a viewing. I will add a caution though, it is clear there is an audience that will not like anything about this film, except for Mr. Mikkelsen, but how can anyone not like good old Mads?

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Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes

What can you do in two minutes? Find out.

(Edit) 14/02/2022

Coming from the same school as One Cut of the Dead, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, like that film does not tell an entirely original story but tells it in such a fresh and positive way you cannot help but enjoy yourself and get truly involved in this short snappy tale of Kato and his cadre of daft friends.

As I often say, budget is the true driver of imagination and invention and with a very small budget Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes uses this ‘hardship’ to its advantage, and goodness me how successful it was.

The film uses three cramped locations, a café, an upstairs apartment and another small office on the next floor up and the actors spend the majority of the lean, snappy, 70 minutes run time, traversing between these places.

Filmed mainly on iPhones and using other various versatile techniques it is to the credit of all involved that this is not noticeable. Yamaguchi the director further shows his creative chops by editing the mobile phone footage to look as if the entire film was made in one take. It was not and you can see a few joins but to point them out would be churlish, to say the least.

The actors had to complete their monologues to camera and then repeat the same dialogue to a video of themselves [in the future] repeating it word for word, with the same inflections and gestures. It is difficult to comprehend how they never went mad or gave up. But the hard work they put in pays off. All of the ridiculous shenanigans play out in an entertaining way. I was glued to the screen trying to figure out what was going to happen next.

The big conceit and ultimately question you must ask yourself is, if you know the future and see what you are going to do and then do that thing because you’ve seen yourself doing it, does the future control you? Are you caught in a hellish conundrum?

This film will resonant with people who have spent the last two years on video conferencing calls where lags in signals can result in seemingly similar timelapse situations. A great premise for the story, although it is based on a short film called The Howling from 2014.

The running time is as exactly as long as it needs to be, the story is fraught but always light and the main five characters are all different but believable characters with their own significant traits and are likable and fun. If you ask me to criticise, perhaps some of the acting shows the makers theatrical roots but once again this is being churlish and ungenerous.

I liked the film, the tale and the characters, it was wacky enough to be off the beaten track but not obscure or off-putting, and throughout its brief running-time it is infused with sweet, good-natured fun.

I recommend this film and if you feel you might not have time to watch a strange subtitled Japanese film, well I can happily say that not only is this good fun but it runs at a lean, efficient 70 minutes.

I eagerly look forward to further output

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One Last Dance

Nearly a Great Film. So close.....

(Edit) 08/02/2022

One Last Dance is filmed in Singapore with a mainly Chinese cast by a Brazilian director who is known for not following the conventions of cinematic story-telling timelines. Think Pulp Fiction, if you were confused by that One Last Dance may freak you out.

The story, no matter how it is dressed up, is essentially a simple kidnapping gone wrong thriller. T, played by the best actor in the film by a country mile, Francis Ng, get the contracts by lai see [I think] packets with numbers on them, I think they are gifts given by the Chinese, but I am talking from full-on ignorance here, and goes about completing the contracts. Makowski throws a spanner into the workings by playing around with the timeline and your expectation [depending on your film-watching experience].

The film tonally is not tuned for ‘western’ [for want of a better expression] ears, with comedic moments and over-the-top acting, particularly from Joseph Quek as Ko, rammed into quite serious scenes and events. To the point of cartoonish sound effects at one stage. It can be a strange brew to get used to but if you can it makes the viewing easier.

To try and distract from the simple tale the director seems to have experimented with some spiffy editing techniques and ideas, some work, others are more clunky and even annoying. In particular, the ‘instant photos’ sequence outlining Ko’s night out starts off as fun and an attempt at something different, but it goes on too long and outstays its welcome.

The film is also bogged down with truly awful cheap CGI blood splatters from the killings. They would look out of place in a poor video game and detract from the viewing. Surely squibs and blood-packs are not that expensive?

There is little I can tell you about the plot without spoiling the story, but it is fair to say you had better pay attention throughout the running time as the story does not resolve itself until near the end, and even if you have not grasped it, scenes get played out again to jog your memory. This technique is not even new to the director let alone crime or any other type of film. There is little I can reveal other than the timeline is out of sync until near the end and it is understandable that some watching the film might end up frustrated.

Francis Ng is great as the hitman, a cliché that you have seen before in hundreds of films, too cool and too well-known to actually be a hitman, but he carries off what could be a blancmange role. Consequently, the film is lifted higher than you could feel it deserves.

The other main character, Ko played by Joseph Quek, his performance is more of a curate's egg, will, depending on your tolerance and mood when watching, amuse you or really annoy you. I fell between the two stools on my watching.

One Last Dance seemed to be made in the style of Asian cinema but also trying to appeal to a more western audience, hence Harvey Keitel pops up for a couple of scenes, he might have been on holiday and popped over to watch filming for all I could tell, and it is here One Last Dance fails, being neither fish nor fowl.

This is a shame because just under the surface there is a good film, familiar enough to drag in the casual viewer and experimental and quirky enough to pique the interest of the more serious film fan. Unfortunately, the casual viewer will undoubtedly end up bored and confused and the serious film fan could end up disappointed and frustrated.

As far as I can tell Max Makowski seems to have given up his fledging directing/writing career as this film was his last entry in IMDB, I cannot find any reference to him on the all-knowing Internet beyond about 2009. Is he dead, divorced or beheaded? Whichever it is he seems to have stopped making movies which is a shame, if he had carried on in the same vein you feel he would have produced genuinely interesting and compelling films.

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Mrs. Lowry and Son

Sad, lonely and put upon......nevertheless I completed this opinion on the film.

(Edit) 03/02/2022

Like so many films that are basically two-handers Mrs Lowry and Son whilst it relies on the skills of many to bring it to the screen it lives or dies on the two actors that carry the bulk of the film. In this case with experienced actors Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall director Adrian Noble and writer Martyn Hesford were in safe hands.

By the very nature of the story Redgrave has the ‘showy’ part leaving Spall the more challenging task of playing what is in essence an inert character, Lowry, who, in this story at least, only really reacts to his mother. Redgrave tries hard to give some light and dark to what essentially is a very unpleasant person and whilst, with the help of small flashbacks she succeeds in a small way, I really was left with the impression that in a two-character film she was very much the ‘baddie.’

Apparently in real life, from my reading, Lowry’s mother was worse than this depiction. Which definitely makes you shudder.

Here we discover her husband was in debt and had to move from a well-to-do middle-class area of Manchester to a more rough-and-tumble working-class area and you can sort of understand her upset and feeling of disappointment and let-down, but to then take it out on her son and shackle him down to what is essentially a life of servitude there is little light you can get out of this. Her only more positive moments are remembering the past, which is what makes her so bitter in the first place.

Spall's interpretation of Lowry is somewhat of a dull doormat, with a kindly nature, who could see the beauty in the ordinary working-class vistas and people around him. Again, by reading about the man he was more than this, although, being fair, the focus of the story is on the fractious relationship with his mother. Perhaps expanding the story to show Lowry’s more humanist side outside of the family home would have made for a less claustrophobic one-dimensional story? The theatrical roots are there to see but perhaps clipping them back would not have been an entirely bad thing? Two-handers that start off as plays find it very hard to shake off those beginnings when they transition to the big screen.

It is to the director and actors' credit that Mrs. Lowry and Son is eminently watchable. In lesser hands this could have been a drudge. Redgrave several times showed mannerisms and facial expressions that reminded me of my mother, who in her own way was a frustrated snob, but I hasten to add was not anything like Lowry’s mother, being both loving and supportive her entire life. Spall’s display of the steadfast loyalty and world-weariness of Lowry to his mother is subtly played throughout the film and is a credit to his acting skills.

The only problem I had was the age of Spall, which is nit-picking I know, but Lowry was in his forties at this time and Spall looked his 61-years of age making him somewhere around 15-years older than his subject and only 20-years younger than Redgrave, I keep thinking throughout the running time that if Lowry lived until the mid-70s and he was this age before the war (as Spall looked) he’d have been over 100-years old when he died, which he was not. It jarred with me,

Mrs. Lowry and Son is a fine film that cannot hide its stage roots and gives an interesting. if fictional look. at the relationship between this gifted artist and his damaged and highly damaging mother. It is not a treatise on the life and influences of the artist like Mr. Turner, Spall’s other artist biopic was. Therefore if you are looking for a similar film then I would suggest you will be disappointed but as a stand-alone film about a well-loved artists' strained relationship with his mother, this is a good film.

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Twin Town

Not made by the Swansea Tourist Board

(Edit) 25/01/2022

Unfairly billed as the Welsh version of Train Spotting, the brothers are wastrel drug users, Twin Town was the creation of Keith Allen’s brother Kevin and writer Paul Durden. As such you see the Comic Strip Presents influence in the story, it starts out darkly comic and gets darker and darker as we proceed. No one is nice and you cannot really root for anyone, but the skill of the writing is that somehow you do not dislike the highly dysfunctional Lewis family that spawned the ‘twins’ Jeremy and Julian, played by real brother Llyfr and Rhys Ifans, the start of a long successful film career Rhys.

As such the film seems to be trying to set up the brothers as delinquent thieves who make bongs out of anything but are to all intents and purpose harmless. It is glorious deceit as they hang about in the ratty caravan site next to a stinking eyesore of an industrial works, with their workshy dad, ‘Fatty’ and fussy sex-worker sister Adie and the mainstay in the family mum, Jean. On the more serious and criminal side we have two ‘bent’ coppers, the late Dorien Thomas world-weary and small-time and the ambitious, psychopathic Scotsman Terry Walsh, played with relish and straight as a bat by the always impressive Doug Ray Scott.

Without detailing the plot and spoiling the film for those that may have not viewed it, Twin Town was made in 1997, the tale does not go in the direction that you might expect. For some, this will be tonally deaf, and I can understand why you might think like that, but Allen’s direction and writing (with Durden) is clever enough to slip this past you slowly so that it does not jar. For me, despite the ending seeming a bit rushed and tied up neatly, it works.

Swansea is shown in all its glorious late nineties ‘wild-west-a-like’ it looks grimy, gritty and a dirty old town. The acting is naturalistic without too many overwrought actorly scenes, the Ifans brothers genuinely seem like the type of skinny idiots that we have all known over the years and the three many ‘baddies’ are not pantomime stereotypes. Scott writes large but in fairness, he needs to within the tale.

William Thomas is scarily good as the whole linchpin to the story Bryn Cartwright and throughout the film as unpleasant as any villain you will see, culminating in a realistic and very unpleasant scene of violence, that with the benefit of hindsight should have been seriously tempered when the film was made although by this point we are in the darkest midnight phase of the film.

The supporting actors are all main-stay Welsh actors including the now long-gone side-burned Brian Hibbard late of The Flying Pickets if you remember them, and he and all the supporting cast give good realistic performances.

This is the film’s strength, the story itself is slight and gets very unpleasant as it runs. Twin Town is a unique turn on the dark crime comedy genre that does not tick all the boxes on violence, language and drug use that you expect but it also turns off the highway and goes down some windy roads you are not expecting now and them.

Overall, for a film that is twenty-four years old (at the time of this opinion piece) there is more to like than not. It holds up well and helped to launch the careers of Rhys Ifans and Doug Ray Scott as well as highlight a lot of fine Welsh character actors who might have never been seen by a wider audience at the time.

You would not want to be friends with anyone in this film but spending an hour or so in their company is certainly okay.

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The Green Butchers

Chicky-Wicky, they'll never run out of supplies...

(Edit) 21/01/2022

The Green Butchers is an early output from the Danish director/writer Anders Thomas Jensen and his unofficial troupe, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Nicolas Bro and like his more recent output, The Riders of Justice, is a strange tale of mistaken beliefs, death, mental health problems all cloaked but normal mundane settings and people. Like any film you get from this one what you want. It could be billed as a dark, dark, comedy with horror and potentially gruesome elements yet it has few laugh-out-loud moments and little real violence or gore. It made me snort or giggle but not laugh out loud but equally the ‘horror’ aspects did not really make me winch or anxious.

One thing you must be aware if you take a dip into this film or any by Jensen is there is often a lack of good taste. In this case the subject matter, which I will not spoil for those who have not seen the film, is in itself fairly repulsive, and Nikolaj Lie Kaas who plays both of the brothers, the depressed Bjarne impressively and his brain-damaged brother Egil a little over the top and perhaps distastefully, much like Bro in The Riders of Justice.

Mads Mikkelsen shows his acting chops even this early showing and topped off with his made hairline and hair you may see him in an entirely different light if you are only used to his English language output. He and Kaas certainly play off each other well and hold the film together. The third hand in the cast is Line Kruse who plays the kind-hearted and lovely Astrid that eventually unravels the friends' scheme. Being the main three characters, the film is better for it and Jensen clearly knows a good thing when he sees it sticking to his ‘cast’ as much as he could for future projects.

The Green Butchers' story slowly unfolds and is all the better for it as it allows the grotesque story to develop and gives the characters of Svend and Bjarne time to flesh out, yet it never outstays its welcome. As with other Jensen films, the overall acting is natural and all the characters, despite their giant quirks, are believable, even if you would want nothing to do with them. What is particularly enjoyable is how the story bowls along, happy to subvert your expectations as it dives down an avenue you never expected, especially if you watch the output of popular Hollywood. In particular, the ending is as odd as you will see for some time.

To really figure out what The Green Butchers is about you must dig below the surface of what seems to be a simple story. Here you find regret, forgiveness, new beginnings and believing in yourself, but not in any way you have seen these tackled before.

Overall, The Green Butchers is strange enough to hold your attention, interesting and different it hits most of its marks but like a lot of the more left-field output you can see in the cinema this has to strike a chord with you straight away or at least you have to be in the right mood.

For me it makes me want to seek out further output from the sometimes contributor to the Dogme film movement for others just this sentence will make you give it a miss.

It is all good either way.

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