Calibre (Matt Palmer, 2018)

Writer-director Matt Palmer delivers an exciting and unbearably tense calling card with debut feature Calibre, a Scottish thriller influenced by the likes of Deliverance, Wake in Fright and Southern Comfort

Full review for VODzilla.co

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Anna and the Apocalypse (John McPhail, 2017)

The pool of Scottish film musicals is small but notable – there’s Sunshine on Leith, a jukebox musical of The Proclaimers’ hits; Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl; and culturally insensitive Gene Kelly vehicle Brigadoon. They can step aside for the new baby in the family, and this one’s got some bite. Anna and the Apocalypse is (probably) the world’s first Christmas-set high-school zombie comedy musical. Less Brigadoon, more Brigadoom…

Full review for SciFiNow

Unicorn Store (Brie Larson, 2017)

Brie Larson’s feature-length directorial debut, Unicorn Store, centres on a grown woman and her pursuit of a pet unicorn, and if that short logline immediately sets alarm bells ringing in your head, this store is probably not worth visiting, even for a brief perusal of its goods. But for anyone left more curious than turned off, this portrait of the clash between childish things and adult pursuits has some merit, even if its wild veers in tone don’t always work…

Full review for Little White Lies

Mari Okada on her anime directorial debut ‘Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms’

Mari Okada has become one of the most prolific writers in modern Japanese animation, not only contributing scripts to various beloved shows, like a new version of Lupin III, but also writing entire seasons of others and seeing her work adapted across anime, manga, video games and live-action cinema.

With Maquia: When The Promised Flower Blooms, an intimate story set against an epic fantasy stage, she turns to directing her own material for the first time. It sees title character Maquia, a young woman from an elf-like race, lose her home, family and friends when her land is attacked by bandits intent on capturing its women. Legend has it that her kind never age, making them valuable to other kingdoms.

After Maquia escapes into the unfamiliar outside world, she stumbles across an orphaned baby, whose parents have been slain. She takes him into her care and tries to raise him herself. The film follows the pair over several decades, as one ages but the other doesn’t, while it also becomes clear that Maquia may not be the last of her kind after all…

Full interview for SciFiNow

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Mari Okada/Toshiya Shinohara, 2018)

Genre fiction has many explorations of romantic love between an immortal being and a human protagonist – vampire stories are especially good for it. What’s less common is a focus on familial love between someone who’s fated to live forever, or at least several centuries more than most, and a human who won’t be alive for nearly as long.

Maquiaisn’t about vampires (and it’s not a horror), but does follow the parent and child relationship between a woman of fantastic origin and the mortal boy she takes under her wing…

Full review for SciFiNow

Now’s the time to get on the John Cho train

It’s unusual enough that a decent portion of the American Pie cast of ‘teenagers’ can still be found in high-profile fare nearly 20 years on from the film’s release – Natasha Lyonne and Jason Biggs have had career renaissances via Orange Is the New Black, while Seann William Scott has, at the time of writing, just been cast as the new co-lead of the Lethal Weapon TV series. But what’s been most interesting in the last few years, now that Scott’s big screen leading man days are largely over, is how John Cho has become the biggest name from the cast, and he wasn’t even part of the main group of horny fuckwits. Billed 24th back in the 1999 film’s credits as ‘MILF Guy #2’, his subsequent success with the Harold & Kumar series and JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot saw him get bumped up to ninth-billed for his appearance in 2012’s American Pie: Reunion. He was still credited as ‘MILF Guy #2’, though, and that may be the lone funny gag in that belated sequel…

Full feature for The Skinny

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018: 10 to see

Now in its 72nd instalment, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world’s longest continuously-running film festival. This year’s edition opens with the UK premiere of Marc Turtletaub’s jigsaw drama Puzzle, starring Kelly Macdonald and Irrfan Khan. The festival later closes with the UK premiere of Swimming with Men, a British comedy from director Oliver Parker, starring Rob Brydon, Jim Carter, Daniel Mays and Adeel Akhtar.

Beyond the galas, there are many premieres, discoveries and retrospectives of note. Here are 10 highlights from the big programme, with the festival running from 20 June to 1 July…

Full feature for the BFI