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A thousand and one nights of a whole new world.
Whilst associating the studio with the animation that Walt Disney built it on,the last time I saw this title was on video during childhood. Seeing it on Dan Murrell's Movie Club Disney line-up I got set to meet up with a friend like me.

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Getting the role at 17 years old, Scott Weinger gives a terrific turn as Aladdin, capturing the plucky, underdog passion of Aladdin going in search of his own identity, whilst developing a loving, trusting bond of friendship with the Genie.

The only person to play the Disney baddie on film and on stage, Jonathan Freeman gives an excellent, venomous turn as Jafar, while Linda Larkin captures Jasmine's frustrations,over no one ever considering to ask what direction in life she would like to take, and the distinctive tones of Gilbert Gottfried, chew at the scenery as Jafar's only friend Iago.

Joining the project after seeing his stand-up routine being animated as the character, Robin Williams gives a blazing performance as the Genie. Making 16 hours worth of audio recordings, Williams juggles rapid-fire, mad-cap impressions and one-liners, with a sweet,gentle empathy, which comes out in Genie supporting Aladdin's efforts to find a new path in life.

Continuing to make the Disney Renaissance soar, co-writers/ co-directors Ron Clements & John Musker closely work with the animation team at Disney, (with legendary animator Glen Keane taking inspiration from MC Hammer for the character movement of Aladdin) to bring a richness to the character designs, with the fluid, beautiful hand-drawn animation capturing the wide-eyed excitement of Aladdin, and subtle colour coding, reflecting the burning red, fiery evil of Jafar.

Working with CGI, Musker and Clements expertly use it to give a depth of field to the Sultan's palace and Cave of Wonders, and to place the audience in the middle of the colourful Musical set-pieces with skillful panning shots following the Genie.

Having Little Monsters (1989) as their only filmed script, future The Mask of Zorro (my favourite film of all time,also reviewed) co-writers Ted Elliott (who suggested that Will Smith should voice Aladdin) and Terry Rossio later revealed in blog posts from 1998-2001 that whilst they worked on a adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars at (Disney owned) Hollywood Pictures they got a call to join Aladdin after Black Friday, where studio co-head Jeffrey Katzenberg dumped the script,and gave the team 8 days to fix it (with the release date already set in stone.)

The result of all these troubles, is a screenplay that moves at a mesmerizing breakneck pace, where celebrity impressions and playful quips,stand shoulder to shoulder with a sweeping Disney romance and a daring Adventure atmosphere.

Later saying in a blog post that " Our sensibilities matched up well with those of the people already on the film, particularly Ron Clements and John Musker, the directors. We were helping them fulfill their vision of the movie." Rossio and Elliott reveal their liking for memorable baddies, in the fantastic decisions they made over what should become of Jafar in the third act.

In the middle of all the Genie and Jafar antics, Clements, Musker, Elliott and Rossio work together to bring a clarity to the major theme of the film: People wanting to escape and find their own paths in life,from Jasmine pushing against forced marriage, Aladdin (whose flaws the writers display as he turns down Genie's request to be freed,as Aladdin fears losing his prince facade) wanting to escape from a life of street crime, and Genie wishing to be finally free from the lamp.


Preparing to travel down to Birmingham in order to see the Hong Kong film Mama's Affair (2022-also reviewed)I took a look to see what Disney titles Dan Murrell had chosen for Movie Club. Visiting the local CEX after Mama's ended,I was happy to spot one of the films from the line-up on disc, leading to to me taking a chance on Enchanted.

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Gliding from directing animated films such as Tarzan and A Goofy Movie to live action, director Kevin Lima displays an animator's eye, in his excellent attention to detail, paying affectionate tribute to classic Disney movies,from the Sleeping Beauty dragon design, to animals treating Giselle like Snow White, and singing to her every word.

Backed by an extremely catchy score from Alan Menken, Lima closely works with The Christmas Chronicles (2018-also reviewed) cinematographer Don Burgess to delicately cross an ironic self-awareness, with a Rom-Com Fairy Tale atmosphere, shining in glorious Musical set-pieces painted in sparkling colours, and staged with an expert mix of practical and CGI effects.

Leaving the world of Disney Princesses for Earth, Amy Adams gives a sparkling performance as Giselle, whose permanent setting to loved-up princess, is used by Adams to bring out a sweetness to Giselle exploring a whole new world, while Timothy Spall gives a hilarious, cackling turn as henchmen Nathaniel.

Sending Giselle out of Disney animation into harsh reality, the screenplay by Bill Kelly takes the staples of the Disney Princesses, and spins them into fish out of water one-liners threaded with ironic references, with a sincere Rom-Com tale,as Giselle meets her Prince Charming,and they both become enchanted.

Lost in America

My first Criterion Blu-Ray.
Travelling to Manchester in order to attend a Q&A with film maker Peter Strickland at the HOME cinema, which screened his latest movie: Flux Gourmet (2022-also reviewed), I decided to visit the local Foop store to check their Criterion sale.

Going to the Criterion aisle whilst another customer was deciding what titles to go for, we ended up getting into a discussion about our top Criterion releases. Unable to decide what film to go for, I asked the other customer to choose the Blu-Ray I would buy (!) Not having heard of this film before,I got ready to watch my first Criterion Blu-Ray.

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Featuring detailed extra interviews going from lead actress Julie Hagerty, to friend of the film maker James L. Brooks, Criterion present a terrific print, with the new 2K transfer retaining a film grain, and the soundtrack allowing the dialogue to be heard with a crispness.

Revealing in a interview on the disc that one of his brothers works in the ad industry, and that he originally wanted Bill Murray to play the lead role,co-writer (with regular collaborator Monica Mcgowan Johnson) lead actor/ directing auteur Albert Brooks gives a hilarious performance as David, whose neurosis tendencies Brooks has constantly fighting with David attempting to build a new sunny side up outlook,from the nest egg he and his wife have built.

Tearing the nests apart with her gambling, (based on co-writer Johnson's own bad fortune at the gambling table) Julie Hagerty gives a very funny performance as Linda, thanks to Hagerty displaying a warm chemistry with Brooks in their snappy lovers tiff exchanges, spinning to Hagerty having Linda act almost possessed at the gambling table, as she takes a spin of the wheel, with a belief that the American Dream will lead her to victory.

Sending the script to Stanley Kubrick, (a fan of Brooks's earlier Modern Romance (1981), and who once his suggestions were turned down, never spoke to Brooks again) the screenplay by Brooks & Johnson superbly take Brooks major recurring themes of restlessness and dissatisfaction,into the Yuppie era with jet-black satire and whip-smart comedic one-liners

Following Linda and David believing that they are going off the grid like rebel bikers with their bourgeoisie nest egg money and Yuppie Winnebago,the writers break all the eggs as the Road Movie follows the couple bickering, that leads them to a bitter end of the American Dream, as their Winnebago drives them back into the corporate machine.

Written whilst on the road with Johnson, director Brooks reunites with cinematographer Eric Saarinen for the last time, and retains the roots of the project, via cleverly using road-side camera set-ups in real locations to bring a up close and personal atmosphere to the funny comedic set-pieces capturing David and Linda's plans going off-road.

Contrasting the road-side set-ups, Brooks and Saarinen lay out David's bourgeoisie life with outstanding long tracking shots following the faceless figure of David (his face is kept turned away from the camera) walking like a worker drone inside his pristine, soulless workplace, as David and Linda get lost in America.

Bad Trip

Good trip.
Getting home after seeing The Harder They Come (1972-also reviewed),I put YouTube on to play in the background whilst I caught up on things. Taking a casual glance at the screen,I saw part of a review by YourMovieSucks for what looked like a funny Comedy. Discovering that the title was on Netflix,I decided to end the night, by going on a trip.

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Going on her second trip after Girls Trip (2017-also reviewed) Tiffany Haddish gives a very funny performance as Trina, who Haddish has strike fear in the hearts of Bud, Chris, and any member of the public that gets in her way, thanks to a rapid-fire dialogue delivery, that Haddish uses to hit one-liners, and also to capture Trina's urgency in finding Chris and Bud.

Going off-road in Trina's car, Eric Andre and Lil Rel Howery give hilarious turns as Chris and Bud, thanks to Andre and Howery both displaying an enthusiasm for getting stuck in the middle of (intentionally) awkward comedic set-pieces, and also a rough-edge sincerity, in the Road Movie bonding between the buddies.

Keeping the public out of the loop over what's happening, co-writer (with Eric Andre, Dan Curry, Andrew Barchilon, Derrick Beckles, Jenna Park and Kathryn Borel) / director Kitao Sakurai & cinematographer Andrew Laboy skillfully link fantastic hidden camera gags, with an excellent level of ambition, which spins gloriously crude gags, into Musical numbers and explosive car chase set-pieces.

Revealed later by Andre that he worked on the script at Robert McKee's story seminars, which results in the mad-cap unscripted jokes being cleverly given in the scripting, a sense of building up the friendship between Chris and Bud, as they go on a bad trip.

The World Is Not Enough

The world is not enough, for all the time in the world.
Beginning to go to the cinema weekly in 1999, and decades before monthly cinema memberships begun,I saw this title three times at the cinema with a family friend.

Learning that to mark 60 years of 007, that UK cinemas were going to screen one Bond title every week in 2022,and not having watched it since early 2000, I decided for the first ever time, to see a film at the cinema for the fourth time.

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Developing capture-bonding after being abducted and held for ransom by Renard, Sophie Marceau makes Elektra King (currently) the lone major Female baddie in the series,and the ultimate, psychologically complex Bond Girl.

In a franchise where Bond takes the lead in (almost all) romantic and sexual situations, Marceau expresses in her body language King's self-confidence in using her sexuality, and dismissing any attempt by Renard or 007 to become the dominant partner, via King keeping Renard at arm's length, whilst giving Bond the false sense that she is waiting to be saved by a dashing hero.

Carrying the scars from her abduction, Marceau captures King's vengeful anger towards her dad and MI6 deciding to leave her to rot, which Marceau snaps into a villainous fury, with eyes on setting the world alight.

Revealing in her 2011 memoir The Real Girl Next Door that she had a rubbish time making the movie,with the cast/crew giving her the cold shoulder, due to studio MGM (this being the first non- United Artists 007 release) pushing the producers to include her, because of hopes it would help the movie in the US market, Denise Richards gives a plucky performance as Jones, with Richards displaying enthusiasm in the Action scenes, but coming off as more distant in the romantic moments.

One of four 1999 films he appeared in, Robert Carlyle gives a burly performance as "Renard", who hits out without flinching at Bond, while building up a desire under the brutal surface, for King.

Returning to the series he had helped to revive in 1995 with GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan gives a wonderful turn as 007, thanks to Brosnan crossing jet-set Euro Spy sophistication as he spies for clues on Renard, with shocking bursts a blunt ruthlessness, as Bond discovers that King has secretly been playing her own little games with him.

Two years later making a movie about the real espionage events behind the Enigma machine, director Michael Apted & The Princess Bride (1987-also reviewed) cinematographer Adrian Biddle introduce King with a glamour atmosphere of ruby reds, elegant push-ins and glittering close-ups, as King gambles that Bond will fall for her charms.

Filming the opening around the real MI6 Headquarters, and closely working with second unit director/ legendary stuntman Vic Armstrong, (who first did stunts for the series on You Only Live Twice) Apted and Biddle spy on Bond with outstanding Action set-pieces, sweeping from frantic dolly and whip-pans over the pre-credits opening sequence, to ending by touching on Thunderball (1965-also reviewed) in the tightly coiled, corner shots, staying up-close to Bond trying to sink the plan of the baddies.

Hired by producer Barbara Broccoli after being impressed by their work on Plunkett & Macleane, (which also starred Robert Carlyle) Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (here joined by Bruce Feirstein) succeed in their first mission of making a great entrance to the series, thanks to allowing plenty of room to the developing romance between Bond and King, with the loved-up 007's perception of his relationship with King, being revealed to have left Bond outsmarted.

Featuring a twist that would rise up and get borrowed by 007 fan Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight Rises (2012-also reviewed), the writers brilliantly spin the ambiguous power play between King and Renard, whose violent outbursts are contrasted by King's intelligent, seductive mind-games, that opens Bond to a thrilling race against time mission, to stopping the baddies from enacting their plans,in revealing that the world is not enough.

The Harder They Come

The harder they fall.
Becoming aware of the title after reading Red-Barracuda's IMDb review of the title,I was intrigued to recently learn that the BFI were releasing a new print edition of the film.

Taking a look at what was going to be screened at the local cinema, I was thrilled to discover that this movie was going to be shown, leading to me discovering how hard they come.

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From the opening notes, Jimmy Cliff plays a excellent, toe-tapping blissful Reggae soundtrack, with the beat expressing Cliff's excitement over making the first ever feature film from Jamaica,and the other, non-Cliff numbers by Desmond Dekker and Toots and the Maytals, which heighten Ivan's passion in taking on the underworld.

Revealing how hard they fall, co-writer (with Trevor D. Rhone) / director Perry Henzell hits a wonderful Neo- Realist note, with rough edge hand-held camera moves and stylish, long panning shots circling Ivan, (played with an awesome enthusiasm by Jimmy Cliff) searching round every corner of his town, in the hope of finding a job.

Leaving from seeing Django at the cinema loving what he had seen, Henzell expertly blends Neo- Realist styling, with wish- fulfillment, stylish slow-motion close-ups on Ivan taking on the police, spinning to glamour wide tracking shots of Ivan driving round in his new car, as his tune tops the charts.

Getting screwed over by the record producer paying him just $20 for his hit song, the screenplay by Rhone & Henzell examines the corruption that has a vice grip on Ivan and the town, where any attempt to break out of the crushing low pay cycle, is crushed by those who are getting rewarded by the merciless exploitation, which Ivan arises from to take down, as Ivan reveals how hard they fall.

Coeurs joyeux

The projectionist.
Being very lucky in 2019 to have a marathon viewing of every French film from 1932 (20 of them) which had English Subtitles that I could find online or on disc,I was delighted to recently find a new '32 title with Eng Subs, leading to me stepping into the projectionist booth.

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From the magnetic, long opening crane shot from the Silent Movie within a film to the cinema, co-directors Max de Vaucorbeil & Hanns Schwarz are joined by Eyes Without A Face (1960-also reviewed) cinematographer Eugen Schufftan in looping the graceful style of Silent cinema, with the punch of Film Noir, via gliding panning shots over a elegant score from Paul Abraham keeping track of Lucette attempting to foil the grubby plans of her brother, which the directors unveil, with a comedic Noir atmosphere of jagged whip-pans reeling Noir loner Charlot into the circle of gangsters.

Secretly falling in love with Charlot, Josseline Gael (who just over a decade later, got married to French Gestapo member Antonin "Tony" Saunier) gives a sparkling performance as Lucette, thanks to Gael giving Lucette a feisty edge when standing up against her brother, which is contrasted with a melting heart when round her lover Charlot - played with a great mix of nervousness and fuming temper by Jean Gabin.

Filmed the same year that he made his directing debut, the screenplay by Henry Koster and Jean Guignebert neatly threads a charming, kitsch Silent Movie Rom-Com romance between Charlot and Lucette, with the looming Film Noir menace of the gangsters wanting to plan a jewel robbery, by watching footage played by a projectionist.

Licence to Kill

"Now, there's a woman on my block,She just sit there as the night grows still,She say who going to take away his license to kill?"
Since being introduced to this on video by family friend Guy Morgan, (who sadly passed away in 2019) LtK has become my favourite Bond film. Finding out that UK cinemas were showing one 007 title a week to mark 60 years of the franchise, and having seen The Living Daylights (1987-also reviewed) the week before, I got set to witness the licence be revoked on the big screen.

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Bringing the curtain down on the Cubby Broccoli era, (this was the last entry where Cubby was on the set during production) returning director John Glen ends his run on the series, by reuniting with Alec Mills, for what would become the first 007 movie to get a "15" certificate in the UK, thanks to loading up an extremely brooding, hard-hitting atmosphere, via close-ups on the blunt-force violence dished out by baddie Sanchez and his henchman Dario, (from whippings, to grisly shark feeding of Felix) leading to the white-knuckle tanker final set-piece, ending in Bond causing Sanchez's plans to go up in flames.

Backed by a spidery score from Michael Kamen, Glen and Mills pair excellent, snappy whip-pans on the brittle, rough and tumble Action set-pieces between 007 and Sanchez's mob, with a jet-set, sun-drenched Euro Spy mood panning shots taking Bond deep deep into the Mexico underworld, with refine push-ins heightening the pressure Bond comes under, fully aware that he has lost all the benefits that came with his killing licence.

Joining Cubby and Glen for his final 007 mission, the screenplay by co-writers Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson ( Wilson got involved on later re-writes, due to regular write of the series Maibaum being unable to, because of the 1988 Writers' Guild of America strike) closes this chapter of 007, (the first adaptation to not be named after a Flemming novel) by going back to the grief Bond suffered in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969-also reviewed), which becomes exposed from Bond's hands being covered in the blood of his tortured friend Felix, and Felix's murdered partner Della, which gives 007 a tough moral ambiguity, as he ignores all requests to stand down from his mission of revenge.

In the past giving the more animated baddies in the series the likes of shark tanks, Maibaum intelligently here takes those more comedic staples, and gives them a brutal, more realistic stance, via keeping sophisticated baddie Sanchez's feet firmly on the ground in his goal to expand his drug cartel empire, and also lingering on the aftermath of him using sharks to torture Felix.

In what was his second film credit, Benicio Del Toro wonderfully makes henchman Dario a right creep, who BDT has smirk and visibly express enjoyment at tormenting those close to 007, while Robert Davi captures Sanchez's no-nonsense mind-set, with him taking down anyone who stands in his way,by using the harshest methods possible.

Breaking away from MI6, Timothy Dalton gives a utterly mesmerizing performance as Bond, whose horror at what has happened to Della and Felix, is used by Dalton to bring out a brittle, hard-hitting anger in Bond, who uses his distinctive Euro Spy charms to slyly gain the trust of those he can then slide pass and get a step closer, as Bond dismisses all calls to hand in his licence to kill.

The Invitation

You are cordially invited.
Learning that National Cinema Day was coming up,I decided to celebrate the occasion by going down to my local cinema. Discovering that a new Horror was about to be screened, I decided to accept the invitation of a cheap ticket to a viewing.

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Taking place in a manor house, the score by Dara Taylor sadly hits the wrong note from the moment Evie (played with an enticing sense of curiosity by Nathalie Emmanuel) meets DeVille (played with a slippery eel glee by Thomas Doherty), due to pushing right to the front, increasingly agitating, sudden jump-scare pulling of the strings, rather then playing a more lingering sinister note.

Revealing the fangs behind the decadent image of the household, director Jessica M. Thompson & cinematographer Autumn Eakin chew with a cracking relish the discreet charms of the murderous bourgeoisie, who drip blood from their wide-smiles as Evie finds herself being forced into the family.

Filmed in Hungary, Thompson and Eakin brew an ghostly Gothic Horror atmosphere of creepy, long distorted in the background wide-shots, and gliding dolly shots exploring every hidden corner of the manor with Evie.

Establishing from the opening some sort of ghostly presence in the manor, the screenplay by Blair Butler pulls Evie deeper into the household to uncover the truth behind this haunting, (a ghost is shown in the windows of the building twice) and then abruptly drops any mention of a ghost, with the spirit just randomly dropping out of all proceedings.

Although Butler does serve up delights in this twist on Dracula, where the aristocratic family and their well to do, loyal servants are blood-thirsty, racist vampires, who Evie stakes down in a fiery final, which sadly can't shake off the impression of the ghostly mystery being left in limbo, from the opening of the invitation.

Yi dai jian wang

Everything Swordsman Everywhere Swordsmen All at Once The Swordsmen.
During the introduction to Taiwanese The Rice Bomber (2014-also reviewed) I was absolutely thrilled to learn, that the HOME cinema in Manchester were soon going to present a season of obscure Taiwan Wuxia Action films, which included a screening of a 2021 remastered print of a Joseph Kuo title.

Discovering that this film was not in the recent box set dedicated to the auteur film maker,and I could not even find a trailer for the movie online, leading to me rushing to meet this rare fighter.

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Spending 20 years preparing his sword to strike down those who murdered his parents, co-writer (with Tien-Yung Hsu and Shui-Han Chiang) / directing auteur Joseph Kuo & The Wheel of Life (1983-also reviewed) cinematographer Tsan-Ting Lin lay out the path of revenge for Ying-Chieh (played with a glittering flair by Peng Tien) with crystallized wide-shots displaying the superb fight choreography, grinding to close-ups of blood splattering against the backdrop of the high waves.

Pausing from moments of action, Kuo displays a striking skill for a lingering build-up to sudden bursts of violence, where close-ups on tea are shattered with ultra-stylized spinning arc shots circling spinning bladed hats, smash-cutting hand-cutting, and zoom-ins being placed on chopsticks getting used as a deadly weapon.

Dicing through the revenge tale in 85 minutes, the screenplay by Kuo, Hsu and Chiang superbly unveil Ying-Chieh's childhood with compact flashbacks bursting with ruthless violence which wipes out Ying-Chieh's family, which drips decades later into his uncompromising mind-set to take down all who destroyed his family home,as Ying-Chieh becomes the swordsman of all swordsmen.

Shi wan jin shan

"When two tigers fight, both become wounded."
Sadly having to miss seeing A City Called Dragon (1970-also reviewed) on the big screen during the HOME cinema in Manchester having a season of rare Taiwan Wuxia Action films (but thankfully being able to find Dragon online with English subtitles.) Knowing that this was the last screening of the season,I got set to meet the ghost on the hill.

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From the moment that the opening credits are whipped across two warriors in mid-battle,hanging in mid-air, writer/ director Shan-Hsi Ting & The Wheel of Life (1983-also reviewed) cinematographer Tsan-Ting Lin unleash a spectacular, off the deep end atmosphere, clashing swords to crash-zooms, freeze frames, Wuxia rolling thunder ground level panning shots, scatter-gun whip-pans and burning close-ups on the gallons of blood spilled across the battlefield.

Closely working with The Love Eterne (1963-also reviewed) art director Nien-Lung Tsao and set designer Shang-Lin Chen (along with a tasty, over-ripe wah-wah score, from a sadly un-credited composer) to wrap the Purple Light Sword in gloriously lush primary colours, which is mixed into the candle wax red blood,and shimmering costumes of the warriors (played by an enthusiastic ensemble cast), that ignites a mad-cap final boss battle, which rolls in a flying head (who bites the rival gang) and a utterly strange zip-line final take down in the last Boss Battle.

Pouring the peculiar appearance of the film into the writing, the screenplay by Ting draws the fighters for the Purple Light Sword and the henchmen of the King Gold (who when using his fire power skills, is happily cackling every chance he can get) in zany colours, that thankfully lean sincere, rather then grating,due to the high-spirited nature which ties this group together, as they soar to the top of the ghost hill.

Hell Is a City

Hell of a city.
Taking a look at the HOME cinema in Manchester listings, I discovered that in tribute to the late Cornerhouse and HOME contributor CP Lee, that a 35MM screening of this Hammer Noir was soon taking place. Having read praise for the title over a number of years, I got set to enter the city.

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Filmed on the streets of Manchester, writer/ director Val Guest & Cash On Demand (1961-also reviewed) cinematographer Arthur Grant ignite a hellish landscape of a Film Noir atmosphere from brooding, depth of field wide-shots looking across the eerily silent Moors, where Martineau (played with a brittle urgency by Stanley Baker) finds a body dumped, leading to Kitchen Style dissolves and whip-pans being used by Guest to line the walls of Don Starling's safe house.

Given the challenge of finding the most wanted man in Hell, the screenplay by Guest sends Martineau round a bruising Film Noir tour of Manchester, as he searches for Starling in pubs where the locals know not to be a snitch to the police if they don't want any trouble, lines of crumbling houses where the tenets keep to themselves,and "two-up" backstreet gambling games being played in the city.

Ryojin nikki

"To escape loneliness and to give each other warmth,we were united in marriage,but there was no escaping reality."
After letting tears flow in the rain by seeing Main Street (1956-also reviewed) in 35MM,I took a look at the listings for the HOME cinema in Manchester, and saw another 35MM coming up, for an extremely obscure title which did not have a single IMDb review, leading to me opening the diary.

Note:The review contains some plot details.

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Spreading the pages of Ichiro's diary across the screen, directing auteur Ko Nakahira (who also directed the splendid Danger Pays (1962-also reviewed )) & Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal (1970-also reviewed) cinematographer Yoshihiro Yamazaki take the diary entries off the page, with a magnetic Japanese New Wave (JNW) Film Noir atmosphere of ultra-stylized half superimposition's glimpsing at the "prey" from Ichiro's notes, refined close-ups on the women whose deaths are framing Ichiro, and shining panning shots following the amateur investigators attempting to overturn Ichiro's conviction.

Stepping into the court with Ichiro, and backed by a dry cured Film Noir score from Bakumatsu Taiyoden (1957-also reviewed) composer Toshiro Mayuzumi, Nakahira closely works with Red Pier (1958-also reviewed) editor on covering the trial with sharp JNW jump-cuts, which fold the court hearing into flashbacks of Ichiro's various liaisons. Paired up to the jump-cuts when away from Ichiro, Nakahira superb freeze frames and JNW long-take wide-shots, that laid bare the seediness of Ichiro's activities.

Putting the diary together from several novels by Masako Togawa, (who gives a haunted behind the eyes debut performance as Ichiro's wife Taneko) Tatsuo Asano binds the books together with an impressive skillfulness, where the biggest clues to the mystery come from two sex workers, (one of whom is gay,and shown in a sympathetic light) who open the case to a chilling twist ending.

Presenting thumbnail sketches of the dates Ichiro, (played with an excellent chewed and spit out bitterness by Noboru Nakaya) goes on, the screenplay by Asano presents a post-war Japan deep in Film Noir pessimism, where Ichiro treats everyone as disposable, with his only interest being to fill the Film Noir loner void consuming him. Maturing not making excuses for Ichiro's actions, Asano explores in splintered, harrowing flashbacks that began the disintegration of a marriage, which Asano decides to record, by writing a hunter's diary.

Queen Christina

"Classic Queen,Headlong (Queen),And you're rushing headlong you've got a new goal"
Although I have been aware for years of her being a major name in Hollywood, I have sadly kept missing the chance to see a Greta Garbo title. Taking a look at the listings for the HOME cinema in Manchester, I was excited to spot an upcoming 35MM screening of a Garbo film, leading to me getting ready to meet the Queen.

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Sailing with Christina to a beautiful final shot, co-writer / director Rouben Mamoulian & Can-Can (1960-also reviewed) cinematographer William H. Daniels draw an immaculate atmosphere, via silky close-ups, expertly designed tracking shots, (a trademark of Mamoulian's ultra-stylized panning shots, and sparkling superimposition's on Christina secretly spending several nights with Antonio at a snowy inn.

Closely working with The Wizard of Oz costume designer "Adrian" and production designer/ fellow director Edgar G. Ulmer, Rouben Mamoulian laces the wide-shots with a regal mood, displaying the stunning attention to detail that gives the palace a luxury appearance, as Mamoulian kneels to deliver graceful push-ins on Christina's lavish, androgynous outfits.

Woven together by ten different writers, (which included Crime Without Passion (1934-also reviewed) co-director Ben Hecht ) the writers make the markings of the many hands behind the screenplay, invisible on-screen, thanks to threading comedic Rom-Com meet-cute one-liners in Christina and Antonio getting to know each other at the inn, with high-end Costume Melodrama, from Christina fighting the power behind the throne, for what she believes is the best direction to take her country in.

Made just over a year before the Hays Code, the writers superbly take full advantage of the Pre-Code era with cracking double entendre one-liners.

Whilst the romance on the surface appears to be between Antonio (played by a John Gilbert in his penultimate role) and Christina, (played with a mesmerizing expressiveness by Greta Garbo) the writers (and director) make clear, that Christina's heart is for Ebba, (played in a subtle, understated manner by Elizabeth Young) via Young and Garbo facial expressing in the two kisses they share the romance which tragically must remain unsaid,as Christina sets sail.

Long cheng shi ri

Dragon city.
Getting off the train, I saw a sign stating that due to extensive works being done, that a coach service to Manchester would be running over the August Bank Holiday,and that long delays should be expected.

Disappointed that after seeing Iron Mistress (1969-also reviewed) I sadly will not be able to see the next screening at the HOME cinema in Manchester of their obscure Taiwan Wuxia Action season.

Searching online to see if the title had come out on disc, I was happy to stumble on a print online with English subtitles, lead to me being able to visit a city called dragon.

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Entering the city to her first leading role, Feng Hsu (in what was only her second screen credit at the time) gives a blazing performance as Shang, whose bone-crunching take downs of those standing in her way is performed with a finesse by Hsu, that is matched by Hsu expressing in her body language the quick-witted edge Shang uses to outsmart all those she is spying on.

Moving into script writing and directing after working with Hsu as an assistant director on Dragon Inn, co-writer (with Han Wu) / director Chung Hsun Tu & The Wheel of Life (1983-also reviewed) cinematographer Yeh-Hsing Chou follow Shang into the city with an ultra-stylized, via rolling thunder ground level panning shots, razor sharp, Wuxia jump-cuts on Shang soaring in the air, and tantalizing crash-zooms on the unique weapons used to try take Shang down.

Whilst the screenplay by Tu and Wu oddly slide Shang's spy mission to the back for a rather abrupt ending, Tu reveals in his directing debut an eye for a tense espionage mood of excellent superimposition's and distorted wide-shots capturing Shang fighting to keep everything under cover, in a city of dragons.

The Living Daylights

The Dying Daylights.
Getting the chance to see the superb On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969-also reviewed) on the big screen, thanks to UK cinemas screening one Bond movie every weekend in 2022, to mark 60 years of 007, I looked at the dates online afterwards, to find out when Licence to Kill (1989-also reviewed) would be shown.

With him being my favourite portrayal of the spy, I felt that before seeing Licence, that it was the perfect time to catch Timothy Dalton's first mission on the big screen.

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Made just two years after Sir Roger's run ended with A View To A Kill, the screenplay by regular writers for the franchise Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson stand divided on taking the mission down a harder edge path, or to continue in the more comedic direction Bond had being going in with titles such as Octopussy (1983- also reviewed.)

The last in the series until Casino Royale in 2006 to be named after an original Ian Fleming title,the writers perfectly play the first note of the film, by opening with an intelligent adaptation of Fleming's original short story, which establishes Euro Spy thrills from 007 disobeying orders to carry out a kill, which opens the mission up to Cold War espionage, as Bond and Milovy (with 007 here having eyes for only one woman) try to build a trust between each other, as the KGB set their sights on killing 00 agents.

Sending Bond to Afghanistan to join the Mujahideen to take the Soviets down, the writers struggle to fully link this part of the adventure to the earlier, more grounded spying antics, with the dialogue moving in a more one-liner direction, and the end of level boss Whitaker,coming off as a last minute after thought.

For the last to have a classic 007 score from John Barry, (and the first to have a different song play over the end credits) returning director John Glen & cinematographer Alec Mills fire up a jet-set Euro Spy atmosphere for the gripping Action set-pieces, with slick wide-shots which allow for the outstanding stunt work to be clearly seen, which is paired up with icy panning shots tracking 007 and Milovy attempt to glide pass under the eyes of the KGB.

The first Bond Girl since On Her Majesty's Secret Service that 007 stays with for the full mission, Maryam d'Abo gives a delightful performance as Milovy, thanks to d'Abo blending high-kicking glamour, with an enticing sense of doubt,over if she can fully trust this secret agent.

Just one of two times he would play the role, Timothy Dalton gives a fantastic performance as Bond, thanks to Dalton balancing the sophisticated, one-liner, playful side of 007, with a gloriously rough and ready ruthless edge, displayed when Bond takes the baddies on full-on, as fights to save the living daylights.

Occhiali neri

"But you've got to think of it like this,it's like a bad dream, that when you wake up, you realize it's not real!"
Being very lucky to get the Blue Underground two disc DVD edition of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970-also reviewed) as a free bonus gift from an eBay seller, and encouraged by family friend Guy Morgan (who sadly passed away in 2019) to view the credits of the film maker, I have since 2011 been exploring the works of auteur Dario Argento, who has become one of my favourite film makers.

Finding that due to the site does not have him listed as director for the shorts AIMA: Vicolo cieco (1999), Eridania Zefiro (2002), the TV shows Gli incubi di Dario Argento (1987), the 1987-1988 series Giallo, and the live stage production of Macbeth (2015), that Dario Argento was one credit away from being the first film maker who I've seen everything credited to him as director on Letterboxd, leading to me putting on the dark glasses.

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After the failed attempt with Iggy Pop to get The Sandman off the ground, co-writer (with regular collaborator Franco Ferrini) / directing auteur Dario Argento works for the first time with cinematographer Matteo Cocco, who helps to bring out a new focus to Argento,along with composer Arnaud Rebotini, who unleashes a wonderfully textured, lively Electronic score, which shimmers as Diana and Chin run for their lives in the woods.

Whilst sadly shot in the same flat digital style as Giallo (2009-also reviewed) Argento thankfully makes a real attempt to stylishly revive his distinctive visual motifs, from slick first-person Giallo sequences of the killer eyeing Diana, brightly coloured lights glazing whip-pan shots of Chin and Diana on the run, the strange naked sequence involving Dario's daughter Asia,and close-ups dripping with red on terrific gory Giallo set-pieces (with regular collaborator Sergio Stivaletti doing the visual effects.)

Encouraged by his daughter Asia whilst she was writing her autobiography to revive a script he had left in 2012 after the original studio went bust, Dario reunites with Ferrini for a screenplay which joyfully expands his major themes, from a love of animals which has run across his credits, to returning to the 2009 Giallo set-up of making it clear to the audience straight away who the killer is, a mistrust of the police, and the blind lead character and quick-witted child character outline of The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971-also reviewed.)

Dario and Ferrini give these recurring themes a welcomed twist,by deciding to cross them with an expansion of The Stendhal Syndrome (1996-also reviewed),in focusing on the victim of an (attempted) murder, as the darkness which blinds Diana (played with on-edge fear by Ilenia Pastorelli) leaves her haunted by the fear of the attacker (and also by the grief of having accidentally killed Chin's family when she was fleeing the attacker) lurking in the darkness, who she faces when he steps out of the shadows, to take off her dark glasses.


"On candy stripe legs the spiderman comes,Softly through the shadow of the evening sun,Stealing past the windows of the blissfully dead."
Despite having heard about this title a few years ago, I was not a aware that it was a work by Denis Villeneuve until it appeared in the line-up of Dan Murrell's Movie Club. Finding Villeneuve's films such as Sicario (2015-also reviewed) to be outstanding, I decided to take on my enemy.

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Charged up by a pitch-perfect, chilling droning score from Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, directing auteur Denis Villeneuve un-webs his distinctive long establishing shots by closely working with cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc to subtly capture Adam and Anthony webbing themselves away in the vast empty spaces of the wide-screen frame, from having to enter committed relationships.

Walking through a stark, rusting gold tint, Villeneuve unleashes an unsettling Thriller atmosphere, thanks to meticulous, long-take tracking shots, delicately framed wide-shots, and razor-sharp push-ins on the increasingly self-isolated, (a recurring theme of Villeneuve's main characters) Anthony and Adam,who lay the canvas for mesmerizing slices of surrealism, that tangles them up in all the paranoia, mistrust and doubt that they had built their webs with.

Pausing a movie he is watching, when a figure who looks just like him appears in the background, Jake Gyllenhaal gives an absolutely incredible performance as Adam and Anthony,via Adam's curiosity chipping away at the quiet normality of his life, used by Gyllenhaal to display Adam's doubts, over if this was the only path his life could have taken, contrasted by Gyllenhaal having Anthony cut off anyone who questions the possibility of a double, leading to his partner Mary (played by a wonderful Melanie Laurent) being given the cold shoulder, until Adam cuts through Anthony's isolating web.

Holding back from web-slinging and making clear who is the hero,and who is the enemy, the screenplay by Javier Gullon skillfully adapts Jose Saramago's novel with seeping, paranoid psychological thrills from Adam obsessively attempting to map a full picture of Anthony, which results in Gullon studying the tangled links that web the duo together,and on a tense, ambiguous note, the spiral of relationships that have been isolated and killed in their webs, as Anthony and Adam, come face to face with a enemy.

Swiss Army Man

Aware of this title since hearing about the off-beat plot outline a few years ago,I had become interested in seeing the title recently, due to learning that this is an earlier film from the writers/ directors of Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022),I was pleased to spot it being chosen for Dan Murrell's Movie Club, leading to me picking up the Swiss Army knife.

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Insisting to appear in every shot, rather then have the doll which had been made for the production appear on screen, Daniel Radcliffe gives a terrific performance as Manny, whose loving support for Hank is expressed in garbled, crunchy vocals, with Radcliffe bringing a fragility out of Manny, in his stiff bodily functions.

Stranded on an island with only a farting corpse for company, Paul Dano gives a wonderful performance as Hank, whose dependency on Manny is used by Dano to dig into Hank's obsessions which take him to a disturbing breaking point edge.

Joining Manny and Hank on the island, co-writers/co-directors the Daniels make their feature film making debut via closely working with cinematographer Larkin Seiple to give the island a thick, misty appearance, captured in wide panning shots over the miles of tresses surrounding Hank and Manny.

Branching out towards an ending which lays out Hank's psychological problems, and also ruins any ambiguity on if Manny is really talking, or if Hank is imagining it all, the Daniels unveil Hank's obsessions with (what he believes to be) re-enactments of moments in his life, using poorly-built props and sets made from plants and garbage found on the island, in order to teach Manny life skills.

Aiming for a tragic Fantasy Comedy mood in the re-enactments sequences, the Daniels sadly make the set-pieces come off as extremely grating, due to a forced self-awareness of making everything kooky and quirky, where any moment when a chance presents itself to explore Hank's mind-set, gets stamped on with a grinding zaniness, as Manny cuts the Swiss cheese.

Les bicyclettes de Belsize

"I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like, It's got a basket, a bell that rings,And things to make it look good."
Taking a look to see what has recently appeared on Talking Pictures free online catch-up site, I noticed on a number of message boards posts about Talking Pictures having shown an obscure short film. Finding Sitting Target (1972-also reviewed) to be thrilling,I was intrigued to discover that this short was directed by Douglas Hickox, leading to me getting on my bike.

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Introducing The Boy (played by a lively Anthony May) with a beautiful extended crane shot, director Douglas Hickox & cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky (who'd reunite with Hickox years later for 1973's Theater of Blood) play a Prog Rock, ultra-stylized Psychedelic atmosphere of spinning tracking shots, panning shots, and soft-focus close-ups over breezy crayon colours melting to The Boy and The Girl (played by an alluring Judy Huxtable) meeting each other.

Sending The Boy head over heels to a billboard of The Girl, the screenplay by Bernie Cooper, Francis Megahy and Michael Newling play the toe-tapping Musical numbers with a warm Folk charm, with a smart,limited use of dialogue between the songs highlighting the love that The Boy has for The Girl who caught his eye whilst he was on his bicycle.

En la palma de tu mano

"Disinterest is a condition of my trade."
Checking the HOME website, I found out that the cinema in Manchester was soon holding a cinema of Mexico season. Looking down the list, I realized that I for years,I have had the titles waiting to be played. This led to me picking up the first movie, and placing it in the palm of my hand.

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Pretending to be blessed with the ability of seeing the path someone will in the future walk down, by looking at the palm of their hand, Arturo de Cordova gives a wicked performance as Karin, whose supernatural skills are used by Cordova to give Karin a devilish cad smile, which Cordova gradually breaks with fear, as Karin sinks into becoming a Noir loner, in Ada's house of horror.

Spending the whole movie wearing black clothes and looking like the bride wore black, Leticia Palma gives a sizzling Femme Fatale performance as Ada, with Palma emphasizing a seductiveness which places all men under her spell,that Palma has Ada twists to a hard, snap viciousness, as Karin raises some doubts over the recent, sudden death of Ada's rich husband.

Laying out the cards to Karin's long- con across an overlapping opening montage of newspaper headlines over Russia getting the nuke, co-writer (with Luis Spota and Jose Revueltas) / director Roberto Gavaldon & cinematographer Alex Phillips unveil a silky supernatural (not Horror) Film Noir atmosphere, via superbly framed, push-in reflecting shots on the mirrors where Karin and Ada attempt to hide the tricks being their deceiving spells, which are broken by Gavaldon & Phillips with stylish superimposition close-ups on Karin's death face facing Noir loner despair.

Chipping through every layer of Karin's razzmatazz image, the writers wonderfully use Karin's fake palm reading, to pull him further down a doom-laden line, leading to him meeting Ada, who shares the same belief of being just one more con away, from having all riches, in the palm of her hand.

Uncut Gems

Cut gems.
Getting a suggestion from a family friend in 1999 that we go and see what is playing at the local Odeon, this led to us going to the venue every week for several years, with the title that started this run off. Being The Waterboy.

Keeping an eye on what Adam Sandler has been up to since then, this has become the top title from him that I've been most interesting in watching. Seeing it get picked for Dan Murrell's Movie Club, led to me cutting open the gem.

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Standing shoulder to shoulder with Howard as he locks his eyes on the prize, the screenplay by editors/ co-writers (with Ronald Bronstein) / co-directors the Safdie brothers brilliantly reflect the cut-throat,high stakes jewelry world that Howard gambles with his wallet and his life in, where the coarsely chopped dialogue emphasizes how close the gem is to causing everything to boil over.

Tangling him in the crime underworld and jet-set celebrities, the writers skillfully take the shine of the gem, and use it to set-off each side fighting to one-up each other, until an explosive twist on what initially appears to be a Sports Drama final, leaves all the dreams and riches as shattered glass.

Threatening to make a terrible movie after failing to get an Oscar nomination for this film, Adam Sandler gives a powerhouse performance as Howard, thanks to The Sandman digging into Howard's belief that he is always just one step away from hitting the jackpot, leading to high anxiety, when all the gems he is handling, begin to fall out of his hand.

Taking a pay cut in order to shoot on 35MM , and book-ending the title with wonderfully inventive shots exploring the inner workings of Howard, the Safdie's closely work with Amour (2012-also reviewed) cinematographer Darius Khondji to keep up with Howard via razor-sharp, jagged panning shots, frantic tracking shots, and crystallized close-ups landing on the uncut gems.

Fruits Basket: Prelude

Peeling the fruit.
Being in town, I decided to take a glance at what was playing at the local cinema. Discovering that an Anime which I had not heard of before was soon starting,I decided to pick up a fruit basket.

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Filling the basket with ripe, tasty hand-drawn animation, with an expressive warmth in the facial animation of Honda and Kyoko, the makers sadly sour the taste, by slapping 30 minutes from the Anime on the opening of the film, which gives off the whiff of the studio cutting corners.

Slicing open a tense family Drama from Tohrus mum, the screenplay by Taku Kishimoto tries to play off large age gaps in the romances as comedic, but ends up making Katsuya looking like an extremely creepy groomer, as the fruit in the basket becomes rotten.

Tie niang zi

Iron Maiden.
Getting the chance to recently see a restored print of the wonderful The Swordsman of all Swordsmen (also reviewed),I was pleased to see another obscure Taiwan Action film being shown at the HOME cinema in Manchester. Being lucky to get hold of a ticket to the packed screening, after accidentally booking for the upcoming showing of A Call Called Dragon, I got set to meet a iron mistress.

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For what would become his third credit, director Tsun-Shou Sung brings a Western atmosphere to the Action scenes, via sharp angles pinned upwards, which surround the Tartar invaders and the fighting rebels with a bright blue skyline.

Closely working with editor Chin-Chen Wang, Sung stages the Wuxia Action set-pieces with a fantastic, colourful stylish flourish, drawing the camera with scatter-gun whip-pans on tightly choreographed fighting moves,which land on jagged close-ups to each last gasp taken, after being inflicted with a deadly finishing move.

Opening with the title character leading the charge,the screenplay by Shih-Ching Yang (one of only ten he wrote), struggles to keep the fuse lit across the entire run time, due to attempts to build detailed outlines of the relationships between each of the rebels and the invaders, (which also touches on a allegorical side, in the rebels fighting back at those who have invaded the island) becoming disjointed, due to it pushing the main warrior further to the back of the group, and also bringing a stop/start mood to the most striking elements,from poisoning fears to disagreement mutterings being raised within the groups,as the mistress irons outs the invaders.

Once Upon a Time in Calcutta

Calcutta Diaries.
As the credits faded to Prey (1977-also reviewed),I was pleased to hear that after this Cine-Excess fest, (the first major movie festival I traveled to attend) that an Indian cinema festival was going to be held at The Electric Cinema (the oldest working cinema in the UK) soon.

Almost giving up on the idea that the festival would ever take place, over the long period that cinemas were shut down, I was absolutely thrilled to see on the website of the re-opened The Electric Cinema, that screenings for an Indian film festival were soon to take place, which led to me getting ready for a Once Upon a Time tale.

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Turning the pages on Ela's searh for a new life, editor/writer/ director Aditya Vikram Sengupta & cinematographer Gokhan Tiryaki listen in on Ela's quiet moments of contemplation, with refine dolly shots, which along with drawing a depth of field to the vast surroundings of the city, also creates a intimate atmosphere, from seeing Ela at a distance/ distorted dolly shots.

Holding a close-up on Ela struggling after the loss of her daughter, Hindole Chakraborty makes a excellent, documentary- style sound design, where Ela's deeply held personal grief, plays out to a backdrop to the sound of bustling crowds and car horns filling the city. Searching round the city for a new beginning, Sreelekha Mitra gives a delicate performance as Ela, which threads Ela's continued struggle with traigic events of the past, while continuing to try and turn a new page in her life,once upon a time in Calcutta.

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