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Throw Down. (12A.)
Directed by Johnnie To. 2004.
Starring Aaron Kwok, Louis Koo, Cherrie Ying, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Cheung Siu-fai and Lo Hoi-pang. Released on Blu-ray/ DVD by Eureka as part of their Masters Of Cinema series. Subtitled. 95 mins.
Throw Down sounds like the title of a Sylvester Stallone film made in the 80s for Cannon; he's a cop on the edge chasing a serial killer or an arm-wrestling truck driver trying to win back the affections of a 12-year-old daughter. It is not the name you'd expect to be attached to a tribute to Akira Kurosawa. But then you wouldn't expect a beautifully shot free-wheeling Hong Kong action comedy set in the Judo underground to be a tribute to the Japanese master.
Directed by Bela Tarr. 1994.
Starring Mihaly Vig, Putyi Horvath, Laszlo Lugossy. In Hungarian with subtitles. Black and white. Available on Blu-ray/ DVD or streaming on Curzon Home Cinema. 419 mins.
If not now, then when? After months of lockdown those copies of Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow and Infinite Jest still sit on the bookshelf stubbornly undisturbed, but if you still want to make use of this enforced leisure and complete one culturally worthwhile feat then maybe, just maybe, now is the time to tackle the seven and a half monochrome hours of Hungarian master Tarr Bela's Satantango.
The Gentlemen. (18.)
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong and Hugh Grant. 111 mins. Out now on Blu-ray and DVD.
The Gentlemen is a film that isn't as smart or as clever as it thinks it is, about a bunch of gangsters who aren't as smart or as clever as they think they are, written and directed by a man who could be smart and clever if only he didn't think he was.
Charlie's Angels. (12.)
Directed by Elizabeth Banks.
Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Sam Claflin and Patrick Stewart. Out now on Blu-ray/ DVD from Sony. 104 mins.
The film opens with Kristen Stewart carefully womansplaining to a smarmy bad guy that ladies can do anything that men can do. Which is true enough but the idea of lady action heroes as expressions of female empowerment seems to me intrinsically flawed: a woman may be able to do the job as well as a man but if that man is Jean Claude Van Damme, Vin Diesel or even Tom Cruise, then it's not really an achievement worth crowing about. If a job is not worth doing, it's probably better done by a man. Except for another version of Charlie's Angels.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (12A.)
Directed by J.J Abrams.
Starring Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels and Ian McDiarmid. 142 mins. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD on April 20th individually or part of a Skywalker Saga boxset. Streaming now on Disney +
In the December of 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi had seemed to me to be a larky entertainment that shook up the formula and was, overall, one of the better Star Wars films. By January 2018 Rian Johnson's film had been revealed to be a horrendous travesty and a desecration of the Lucas mythos. By extension I suppose I was part of the Mainstream Media conspiracy to shill for Disney and push their liberal agenda. The backlash against it was very real, not just the work rightwing nuts and Russian troll farms, but mostly perfectly well-balanced fans, and had a considerable financial impact on Disney.
The Battle of the Sexes. (U.)
Directed by Charles Crichton. 1960.
Starring Peter Sellers, Robert Morley, Constance Cummings, Jameson Clark, Moultrie Kelsall, Alex Mackenzie. Black and white. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD or to stream on BFI Player, iTunes and Amazon on April 20th. 85 mins
The title is actually something of a piece of misdirection: the film's sexism is a cover for its attack on conscience-free capitalism. When Ms Barrows (Cummings) arrives at an olde Edinburgh Tweed business, the problem is not that she is a woman, but that she is an American woman; a modern American businesswoman wielding time and motion studies, streamlining, rationalisation and a fearsome desire to maximise profit and bring the company into the 20th century. Quite why early espousal of ruthless capitalism is seen as a feminine trait is a bit of mystery.
The Cranes Are Flying. (12A.)
Directed by Mikhael Kalatozov. 1957.
Starring Tatyana Samojlova, Aleksey Batalov, Vasili Merkuryev, Aleksandr Schvurin. Black and white. Out on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection. 92 mins.
This bleak tale of love torn apart by war is what passed for throwing off the shackles in the Soviet Union. Stalin dead, Khrushchev in power, this was a little window for filmmakers to express themselves more freely. The Cranes are Flying is a bleak little melodrama, a glum time all round, but with its striking angles and extravagant camera movements, it could almost be their equivalent of A Hard Day's Night.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho. 2013.
Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang Ho, Jamie Bell, Go Ah-sung, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ewan Bremner, John Hurt and Ed Harris. Partly subtitled. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate. 126 mins.
It's taken seven years but, though you may have already streamed it on the N-word or one of the other platforms, this marks the formal British release of the film Bong Joon-ho made before the film he made before Parasite. Released in 2013 it has been successfully shown all over the world and a TV adaptation is nearing release but we have been shunned for the whole seven years. Apparently, we can bundle the blame onto the hunched and not-quite-broken-enough shoulders of Harvey Weinstein, who sulked when Bong refused to make the 20 minutes of cuts he suggested would improve the film.
The Specialists. (15.)
Directed by Sergio Corbucci.
Starring Johnny Hallyday, Gastone Moschin, Françoise Fabian. In French or Italian with subtitles, or a partial English dubbed version. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD from Eureka!
Come and join us on a Western Hallyday, gunfights and mayhem for an hour or two. Like the English with football, the French have a proprietary interest in cinema, because they invented it and can't quite accept that anyone else is any good at it. So having seen the Italians recreate the Westerns, they, of course, had to barge in and throw their weight around. This Garlic/ Spaghetti hybrid western, features the French Elvis, Johnny Halliday, as Hud..
The 1,000 Eyes of Dr Mabuse. (12.)
Directed by Fritz Lang. 1962
Starring Dawn Addams, Peter Van Eyck, Gert Frobe, Wolfgang Preiss, Werner Peters, Andrea Checci, Marie Luise Nagel, Reinhard Kolldehoff, Howard Vernon, Marielouise Nagel. 101 mins. Out
Fritz Lang's final film stars Gert Frobe, the man who just two years later would play the greatest Bond villain, Goldfinger, and features the original Bond villain, Dr Mabuse. Mabuse began as a Weimar figure, a master of disguise and hypnosis at the heart of a shadowy spectre of evil, dreaming up and executing dastardly crimes and terrorist act, just for the fun of it. Lang made two films about him in the twenties and thirties; his third Mabuse film imagines the character reincarnated into 60s cold war paranoia.
Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles.
Starring Barbara Colen, Thomas Aquino, Silvero Pereira, Thardelly Lima, Rubens Santos, Wilson Rabelo, Sonia Braga and Udo Kier. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD from April 27th. Subtitled Portuguese/ English. 131 mins
Take a trip to the High Bacurau, a modern-day western that covers the whole range without seeming to make much of an effort. The basic premise is a wild west standard: a small, remote town is threatened by an outside force, so the residents of under siege Bacurau come together to fight back against the external menace that, having already wiped them off the GPS map, wants to raze them from the land. Within that basic framework, it manages to encompass just about every type of film going, from cult weirdness to social conscious drama, with plenty of sex and violence and humour and hallucinogenics in between.
The Year of the Sex Olympics. (15.)
Directed by Michael Elliott. 1968
Starring Leonard Rossiter, Suzanne Neve, Tony Vogel, Brian Cox, and Martin Potter. Black and White. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD or to stream on BFI Player, iTunes and Amazon on April 20th. 103 mins.
Knigel Kneale Knew. This late sixties BBC drama from the creator of Quatermass is one of those futuristic dramas that are eerily predictive, while being nothing like the reality. The eerie predictive part is foreseeing the rise of reality TV, albeit reality TV in the form of nightly hardcore competitive pornography broadcast, which seems a damn sight more entertaining, and more dignified, than watching the tossers on Gogglebox blathering on.
Nights of Cabiria. (PG.)
Directed by Federico Fellini. 1957.
Starring Giulietta Masina, Francois Perier, Franca Marzi, Dorian Gray, Aldo Silvani, Ennio Girolami, Mario Passante, Christian Tassou. Black and White. Subtitled. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD from Studiocanal. 118 mins.
The film Fellini made before La Dolce Vita, the story of a prostitute Cabiria (Masina) in Rome trying to get out of the life, is the last of his to carry a Neo-realism influence. Which means it's the last of his films primarily concerned with the poor. After this, he would predominantly be filming professional people in nice houses.