News

A Cambodian Spring

The award-winning BFI supported film A CAMBODIAN SPRING is an intimate and unique portrait of three people caught up in the chaotic and often violent development that is shaping modern-day Cambodia which is vastly under reported. Shot over 6 years, the film charts the growing wave of land-rights protests that led to the ‘Cambodian Spring’ and the tragic events that followed. This film is about the complexities – both political and personal, of fighting for what you believe in. It has won the Special Jury Prize at the 2017 Hot Docs International Documentary Festival and won Best Documentary at the Brooklyn Film Festival and has gone on to win a slew of other festival awards. It is a very personal film by award-winning filmmaker Chris Kelly whose work focusses on the human condition.

Forthcoming: Criminal Intent

After its highly successful Blu-ray box of neglected Hammer titles last year, in Hammer Volume 2: Criminal Intent, Powerhouse/Indicator has another equally intriguing collection of such material lined up for February. The gem of this particular collection is Cash on Demand, an intelligent and ingenious crime thriller starring the matchless duo of Peter Cushing and Andre Morrell (celebrated for their Hammer outing as Holmes and Watson). What makes this one particularly intriguing is the fact that cineastes can imagine the film recast with the two actors – as an uptight bank manager and a smooth conman of military mien — playing each other’s parts. The collection also has the little-seen Never Take Sweets from a Stranger; the film’s subject, a sober treatment of paedophilia, may be one of the reasons why the film has been neglected for so long. Aficionados of Hammer need not hesitate, but the box should have wider appeal than that fiefdom.

Stephen Burke’s critically acclaimed MAZE from LIONSGATE

Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK presents the Irish box-office hit, Stephen Burke’s critically acclaimed MAZE, which achieved the biggest opening weekend of any Irish film in Ireland and Northern Ireland since “ROOM” in January 2016. The film opened without previews to over €141k (£124k) after its release, Friday September 22nd, on 65 screens (between ROI and NI) and hitting number 3 in the Irish box office chart. The film ran for ten weeks, spending five of these in the Irish top ten, and achieved a box office of over one million dollars (£764,874) in that time. Following Maze’s robust theatrical release, the critically acclaimed film will now be available on Digital Download on 15th January and on DVD on 22nd January. Based on the true story of the 1983 mass breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP Maze high-security prison in Northern Ireland.  As Larry Marley (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), the chief architect of the escape, schemes his way towards pulling off this feat, he comes into contact with prison warder, Gordon Close (Barry Ward). Initially Larry and Gordon are confirmed enemies, born on opposite sides of Northern Ireland’s political divide, but when Larry realises that Gordon may be unwittingly useful for his escape plan, a slow seduction begins. Larry intends to use and manipulate Gordon in order to get closer to his goal but what follows is a tense, and intriguing drama in which an unlikely relationship is forged between two enemies that will have far reaching consequences for both of them.

News DVDS & Blu-Rays from Sony, Eureka, BFI, Arrow

BLADE RUNNER 2049, Denis Villeneuve, director/Sony 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, DVD and Limited Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray  Given the reputation — much burnished over the years – of Ridley Scott’s original Philip K. Dick adaptation, the bar was set high for any sequel, however belated. And although there were a few dissenting voices, the response to Denis Villeneuve’s modern riff on concepts taken from the original film has been remarkably positive, with the many admirers of the film pointing out its intelligence – and the best science-fiction customarily display that very quality. The film stars Ryan Gosling as K and Harrison Ford reprising the role of Rick Deckard. Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. The package is loaded with extras, but the disc’s principal appeal lines in the film’s astonishing futuristic visuals.

THE HOUSEMAID, Derek Nguyen, director/ Eureka Blu-ray  While the accoutrements of this Gothic chiller are occasionally familiar, the imagination of the director Derek Nguyen frequently takes his narrative into territory notably underexplored by this genre — and to considerable effect. First-time director Nguyen makes a striking debut with The Housemaid [Cô Haû Gaí], a haunting gothic romance which blends bold eroticism with a pervasive sense of dread. Linh is a docile and hardworking poor orphaned girl who comes to Sa Cat seeking a housemaid job. Sebastien Laurent is a French captain and owner of the Sa Cat rubber plantation. For years, the massive mansion is rumoured to have ghosts, particularly those of Camille – Sebastien’s late wife—and the mistreated plantation workers. Once Linh comes to Sa Cat, she begins to hear strange sounds, have frightening dreams, and witness bizarre occurrences.

SCORE, Matt Schrader, director/Dogwoof  Anyone who knows the score (pun intended) will be aware that one of the reasons that movies can have such a mesmeric effect on audiences is the power of a film’s musical soundtrack – orchestral or otherwise.Music  plays an immensely persasive role in the total experience offered by the cinema. This fascinating documentary features virtually every important composer who has worked in the cinema, from the early days of Max Steiner’s King Kong through the more modern era of the matchless Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes and Chinatown) and up to the present with Hans Zimmer, who scored such films as The Dark Knight and Gladiator. Needless to say, the musician who is probably the best known of all film composers, John Williams, is given his full due – and we are even able to compare his score for Superman with Hans Zimmer’s later Man of Steel.

DOCTOR FAUSTUS, Richard Burton, Nevil Coghill, directors/Fabulous Films  While Richard Burton was the first to admit that he had somewhat squandered his talent in films unworthy of him, there are several filmic records of just what a remarkable actor he was — such as this 1967 adaptation of the performance by Oxford University Dramatic Society, with Burton in a powerful assumption of the title role (and a cameo by a wordless Elizabeth Taylor). It’s demanding fare, and not the easiest of viewing experiences, but Burton is always remarkable.

ORCHESTRA REHEARSAL, Federico Fellini, director/Arrow Academy  Mention Fellini’s name to most cineastes and they will be more likely to conjure visions of his earlier classics such as La Dolce Vita and 81/2. But hardcore admirers at the late Italian director have long made a point of tracking down everything he worked on, and this curiosity is well worth their efforts; it’s a quirky and enjoyable satire from Fellini, in collaboration once more with Oscar-winning composer Nino Rota. An Italian television crew visits a dilapidated auditorium (a converted 13th-century church) to meet an orchestra assembling to rehearse under the instruction of a tyrannical conductor. The TV crew interviews the various musicians who each speak lovingly about their chosen instruments. However, as petty squabbles break out amid the different factions of the ensemble, and the conductor berates his musicians, the meeting descends into anarchy and vandalism. Made in 1978 for Italian television, Orchestra Rehearsal, an allegorical pseudo-documentary, is possibly Fellini’s most satirical and overtly political film, This special edition features a new 2K restoration of the film, rare poster and press materials, and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film.

WOODFALL: A REVOLUTION IN BRITISH CINEMA, Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Richard Lester, Desmond Davis/BFI (8-disc Blu-ray box set)  It’s difficult in the 21st-century to remember the impact that the 1960s British New Wave of filmmaking had in its day with one film company producing many of the most durable classics at a time when cinema was shaking off the over-comfortable (and rather stilted) trappings of middle-class drama which had held sway for so long. This new 8-disc set celebrates the 60th anniversary of Woodfall Films and includes eight iconic films (many newly restored and available on Blu-ray for the first time) that revolutionised British cinema and launched the careers of the likes of Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Rita Tushingham. These are: Look Back in Anger (Tony Richardson, 1959), The Entertainer (Tony Richardson, 1960), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960), A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962), Tom Jones (Tony Richardson, 1963) (New 4K digital restorations of the original theatrical version of the film and the 1989 director’s cut), Girl with Green Eyes (Desmond Davis, 1964), The Knack… and how to get it (Richard Lester, 1965). With copious special features, this an unmissable set.

GOMORRAH – THE SERIES, various directors/Arrow TV DVD & Blu-ray  Slowly but surely, this Italian series – which boasts nary a sympathetic character — has built a reputation as one of the most powerful and unusual crime series, with its excoriating picture of the Latin criminal underworld. The series is based on the best-selling non-fiction investigative book by Roberto Saviano. Saviano infiltrated and investigated a Naples based Italian crime organisation called Camorra. Since the book has been published Saviano has to live in exile as he has been threatened by the Camorra. The series does full justice to Saviano’s dark vision.

THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director/ Eureka Entertainment Blu-ray  If you are an admirer of the director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s wittily written and intelligent films (Mankiewicz was equally accomplished as writer and director), you owe it to yourself to track down this now little-seen drama which followed up his classic All About Eve, and features a scene- stealing performance by Humphrey Bogart. While looking every single one of his years, it’s hard to think of a contemporary actor who has anything like Bogart’s appeal, not to mention a luminous appearance by Ava Gardner in the title role. A high point in the already success-laden career of Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), and one of the most glamorous and extravagant films from Hollywood’s Golden Age, The Barefoot Contessa is a tragic drama about the tumultuous rise and fall of fictional Hollywood actress Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner). plays down on his luck writer and director Harry Dawes, reduced to working for an egotistical and abusive producer, Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens)

THE WITCHES, various directors/Arrow Academy  For many years, this beguiling portmanteau film was hard to see, but sounded intriguing with its variety of directors and stars, including Clint Eastwood (and with the legendary and seductive Silvana Mangano at the centre of each episode), so this opportunity to finally catch it is not to be missed – even though one episode (the bizarre, would-be comic tale directed by Pasolini) tests the patience.

PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN, Angela Robinson, director/Sony  This highly unusual piece deals with the curious sexual ménage involving the creator of Wonder Woman and his two female lovers. It is based on the extraordinary true story of the man behind of one of the most iconic super heroes ever conceived, and the seductive secret life he kept from his fans. Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans, Beauty and the Beast) was roundly criticized for the creation of his feminist superhero, but it was his personal life, with his polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall, The Gift) and their lover, Olive (Bella Heathcote), that was more provocative than any adventure he had ever written.
TANGO ONE, Sacha Bennett, director/Universal  Based on the novel by UK thriller author Stephen Leather (Murder in Mind, London’s Burning) and directed by Sacha Bennett (Get Lucky, We Still Kill the Old Way), Tango One is a fast-paced crime thriller about how far one man will go to rescue his daughter, and save his criminal empire from collapse. When three undercover recruits are assigned an impossible mission to take down one of the world’s most wanted men, notorious drug dealer, Den Donovan (Vincent Regan), they have no idea who they are dealing with. As the undercover recruits inch closer to their target, they are each drawn in by the charismatic criminal leader – too close, perhaps, to remember the rules.

 

Strike: The Silkworm on DVD

The second instalment of the acclaimed TV detective series based on J.K. Rowling’s best-selling crime novels written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, Strike – The Silkworm will be available to own on DVD from 19th February 2018, courtesy of Warner Bros Home Entertainment.British actors Tom Burke as ‘Cormoran Strike’ and Holliday Grainger as ‘Robin Ellacott’ lead an all-star cast of acclaimed British actors, including Natasha O’Keeffe (Peaky Blinders, Misfits), Kerr Logan (Alias Grace, Game of Thrones), Monica Dolan (W1A, The Casual Vacancy, Wolf Hall), Lia Williams (The Crown, The Missing), Tim McInnerny (Spooks The Greater Good, Eddie The Eagle, Sherlock), Jeremy Swift (The Durrells, Downton Abbey) and Sarah Gordy (Holby City, Upstairs Downstairs) for the major BBC One series; Strike – The Silkworm. 

Tom Burke, who most recently starred in BBC’s epic War & Peace as ‘Fedor Dolokhov’ and in The Musketeers as ‘Athos,’ is Strike, a war veteran turned private detective operating out of a tiny office in London’s Denmark Street.  Following his success in solving the Lula Landry case, Strike’s detective agency has been busy. A new client Leonora Quine appeals to Strike’s sensibilities with the case of her missing author husband, that leads Strike into the depths of London’s literary world. 

Holliday Grainger, who most recently starred in BBC’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover as Lady Constance Chatterley, is Robin Ellacott, Strike’s assistant.  Robin’s beginning as a temporary secretary, has evolved into her current role as Strike’s indispensable assistant; working alongside him and delving deeper into the hidden meanings and concealed secrets of the Bombyx Mori case. 

Strike – The Silkworm is executive produced by J.K. Rowling (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Casual Vacancy), Neil Blair (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Casual Vacancy), Ruth Kenley-Letts (The Casual Vacancy, The Hour), Tom Edge (The Crown, Lovesick) and Elizabeth Kilgarriff (for the BBC) and is based on a script by Tom Edge. Directed by Kieron Hawkes (Fortitude, Ripper Street) and produced by Jackie Larkin (Stella Days, Kings)

 

The Silkworm was published to critical acclaim in 2014, building on the global success of its predecessor The Cuckoo’s Calling in 2013 and followed by Career of Evil in 2015.  All three books were number one Sunday Times bestsellers in both hardback and paperback and Little, Brown has sold in total over four million copies worldwide across all editions.

 

Cormoran Strike is one of the most memorable and distinctive detectives in crime fiction today and Robert Galbraith is among the genre’s most celebrated writers, shortlisted for the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger in 2015 and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

 

 

CAT O’ NINE TAILS and other new Blu-rays

CAT O’ NINE TAILS, Dario Argento, Director/Arrow Blu-ray  Firstly: a declaration of interest: I contributed the booklet notes for this disc – so I’m obliged to say something different here! One of the greatest causes for celebration in the DVD/Blu-ray revolution has been the appearance of all the major films of the massively talented (if wildly inconsistent) Dario Argento – the ultimate giallo craftsman, as we reminded as his 1971 horror mystery Cat O’ Nine Tails gets a superb limited edition 4K restoration. In the early part of his career (as I noted in Italian Cinema: Arthouse to Exploitation), Argento’s s astonishing visual and aural assaults on the sensibilities of the viewer put the emphasis on the total experience of film rather than intellectual appreciation of a well-written script (his horror films are definitely not for those who demand carefully constructed, literate screenplays!). Usually to the throbbing, high-decibel accompaniment of the music of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (his long-time collaborator), the films of this energetic Italian are a breath-stopping rollercoaster ride of painterly visuals and graphic horror. Argento’s feature film debut, the poetically titled The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L’Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo, 1970), augured well for his career – a commercial success in 1970, it looks a fascinating dry run for many ideas to be more fully developed in later films. Tony Musante plays an American writer in Italy who witnesses a murderous assault through glass (prefiguring David Hemmings in the later Deep Red (Profondo Rosso, 1976); he is trapped between sliding glass doors while attempting to aid the bleeding victim (Eva Renzi) – and this sequence seems to be the one people remember over the years – probably because Musante’s subsequent tracking down of the black leather-clad murderer is handled with rather less panache than Argento was to develop in subsequent films. Deep Red is stunning evidence that Dario Argento’s delirious visual talents have been consistently in evidence from his earliest films to Inferno (1980). A tortuous Hitchcockian thriller (with a relatively unguessable denouement), it is better constructed than Suspiria (1977) – the film it has most in common with – and the plot-spinning between the big, operatic set-pieces is better throughout. Cat O’ Nine Tails, filmed in English in 1971 starred bland James Franciscus and the ever-reliable Karl Malden in a baroque and byzantine thriller that consolidated Argento’s reputation as a master genre director. A break in at a genetics lab leads to a spiralling vortex of bloody murder. The limited edition Blu-ray is packed with extras, and features a new audio commentary, new cover artwork and comes with a poster, lobby cards and a limited edition booklet with notes by this writer.

WIND RIVER, Taylor Sheridan, director/Sony  Taylor Sheridan’s film has been steadily acquiring something of a reputation for its effortless command of the material – not to mention its vivid sense of place. A gripping crime thriller set in the unforgiving snow plains of Wyoming. Elizabeth Olsen stars as a rookie FBI agent tasked with solving the brutal murder of a young woman in a Native American reserve. Enlisting the help of a local hunter (Jeremy Renner) to help her navigate the freezing wilderness, the two set about trying to find a vicious killer hidden in plain sight. The closer they get to the truth the greater the danger becomes with a town full of explosive secrets ready to fight back.

LEATHERFACE, Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury, directors/ Lionsgate Blu-ray   While this is a perfectly efficient horror prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, delivering the requisite frissons, it curiously fudges one important possibility: characterising its monstrous chainsaw-wielding protagonist as a young man; there is not a great deal more to him here than in Wes Craven’s film. It didn’t matter in the latter, as he was just one of a group of memorable bogeyman, but the title here suggests we might learn a little more. The maniac is certainly unmasked in this gruesome prequel to Hooper’s original, exploring the origin of the fearsome horror icon, from the directors of the extreme French masterpiece Inside. A young nurse is kidnapped by four violent teens after they escape from a psychiatric hospital, and take her on a road trip to hell. Pursued by an equally deranged, trigger-happy lawman out for revenge, one of these teens is destined for tragedy and horrors that will destroy his mind – moulding him into the monster who becomes Leatherface. The directors – masters of horror Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury – are a perfect fit for the material, having shocked audiences with their 2007 Gallic debut Inside.

HOUNDS OF LOVE, Ben Young, director/Arrow Blu-Ray  Hounds of Love is proving to be something of a Marmite film, inspiring admiration and its opposite in equal numbers. But there is no denying the gusto with which director Ben Young tackles his lacerating material. The UK Blu-ray debut of this intense thriller showcases an Aussie gem, based on real life crimes. It stars Ashleigh Cummings as a young girl who must fight for her life, after being abducted by a dangerously deranged couple, Stephen Curry and Emma Booth. In the tradition of Wolf Creek and Snowtown, The Hounds of Love was a success from writer/director Ben Young. This is an unnerving psychological thriller.

NEW WORLD, Park Hoon-Jung, director/Eureka/Montage  The director Park Hoon-Jung was celebrated as a screenwriter for such films as I Saw the Devil but here makes an adept move into directing and proves himself to be one of South Korea’s most able directors. The head of South Korea’s biggest crime syndicate is murdered in mysterious circumstances, and a violent power struggle follows his death. This is a gangster film of some style and panache.

THE ZERO BOYS soundtrack, Hans Zimmer/Arrow  Arrow Records have issued their second release – the original soundtrack to Nico Mastorakis’ action-horror hybrid The Zero Boys. There will be a limited edition translucent blue vinyl (500 copies). This previously unreleased gem combines adrenaline pumping electronic compositions by the legendary film composer Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Inception) with tasteful orchestral cues by the renowned scorer of cult films Stanley Myers (Frightmare). This limited vinyl edition has been newly mastered from the original 1/4” analogue tapes by James Plotkin and is presented on 180 gram wax, housed inside a 350gsm sleeve.
BLACK SABBATH, Mario Bava, Director Arrow Blu-Ray. Those who caught this portmanteau chiller on its first British cinema release will not have realised that they were seeing a watered-down version of the Italian original (as were. of course, American audiences). But here is a chance to see one of the key works by Bava, the late master of macabre atmosphere, in uncensored form. The episode ‘The Drop of Water (theoretically – but mendaciously — based on a story by Chekhov) is the standout.