Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015)

Based on manga Umimachi DiaryOur Little Sister sees three upwardly mobile adult sisters attend the funeral of the father who left their family years ago for another woman. At the ceremony they meet, for the first time, their teenage half-sister Suzu (Hirose), who’s unhappily living with her self-absorbed mother. On a whim, oldest sibling Sachi (Ayase), the de facto head of the family unit, invites the teen to come live with the trio in the ancestral home they inherited from their grandmother, in which they’ve fostered the cheerful atmosphere of a sorority house…

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Hardcore Henry (Ilya Naishuller, 2015)

Comparing films to video games doesn’t necessarily carry the stigma it once did, mainly due to the steady infiltration of game textures and language into genre cinema – Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, for one, fully embraced the game logic of resets and trial-and-error puzzles.

In the case of Hardcore Henry, an action movie told entirely through first-person visuals, the intent seems to be to mimic the video game aesthetic more than any film before, specifically the first-person shooter genre. In form and content, it’s all there: a mute protagonist that’s effectively the viewer, racing to various checkpoints, constant instructions from supporting characters, shaky-cam spasms as Henry gets hit, and numerous weapons to collect along a killing rampage to save a damsel in distress…

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Hirokazu Kore-eda on ‘Our Little Sister’

When we meet at the London Film Festival, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda expresses an admiration for The Skinny’s iPhone case, which has a design based on the No-Face character from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. After this, though, he admits via an interpreter that he hasn’t actually seen that hugely successful animation, which is something of a surprise – not just because Spirited Away was such a massive hit in Japan, as well as around the world, but also because Kore-eda has in his own way been just as significant a force in Japanese film over the last few decades as Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, albeit in the realm of live-action and in a much quieter fashion…

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Ratter (Branden Kramer, 2015)

With Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended and Nacho Vigalondo’s Open Windows, tech-bound terror has become an increasingly popular source of inspiration for directors looking to thrill, while also keeping an eye firmly on the more problematic elements of society’s ever-developing relationship with the Internet. Joining this small but growing genre is writer-director Branden Kramer’s feature debut, Ratter

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Branden Kramer talks ‘Ratter’, hackers and the FBI

After last year’s Unfriended offered a vision of tech terror told entirely through Skype on a laptop screen, Ratter, the feature debut of writer-director Branden Kramer, ups the unsettling factor by placing viewers in the shoes of a stalker capturing someone’s life via elaborate hacking; a tale entirely visualised through the recording equipment within laptops, smartphones, and other web-connected devices.

Ashley Benson (Spring Breakers, Pretty Little Liars) is excellent as the unseen stalker’s target, whom we witness, to an uncomfortably intimate degree, going about her everyday life, none the wiser that she is perpetually being watched, until events escalate to a point where the threat is very much pronounced.

With the film now available on VOD in the UK, we sit down with Branden Kramer to discuss the creation of this unique thriller, as well as his own run-ins with hackers and, amusingly, the FBI…

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zack Snyder, 2016)

Of the numerous problems with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, one of them is quite succinctly illustrated by one scene in the film’s back half. It sees Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, aka Batfleck) browsing some top secret files, many of which concern the mysterious Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) who’s been popping up throughout the film, mostly being all cipher-like because her solo movie isn’t out until next year. This scene includes what may be a cinematic first: a character in a film literally looking at a promo still for a real film that’s yet to come out, in this case a picture of Gadot’s Wonder Woman in her forthcoming film’s 1918 period setting, posing with various recognisable faces (Chris Pine, Ewen Bremner) that will presumably make up her posse – not just a picture of her, but a glance at the supporting cast.

The need to shoehorn any and all set-up references to future entries in the DC ‘extended universe’ that this movie is properly kicking off – Man of Steel didn’t seem like a primer for anything but another solo Superman tale – isn’t the only major issue with the film (and it’s not like Disney’s Marvel efforts are any less guilty of it), but it ties in well with another complaint: Dawn of Justice is a needlessly byzantine mess. A lot of stuff happens, and very loudly at that, but so little of it ultimately coheres. It’s overstuffed to the point that Superman (Henry Cavill, asked to stick to scowling this time) is practically relegated to the status of glorified supporting role…

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Scott Graham on ‘Iona’

After earning raves and a BAFTA nomination for his debut feature Shell, writer-director Scott Graham returns with Iona, another Scottish film set far off the beaten track. As Graham himself explains, his new film “is about a young woman [Iona, played by Ruth Negga] who goes back to the island of her birth [the isle of Iona] with her teenage son [newcomer Ben Gallagher] to hide from a crime they’ve committed. The film opens in a kitchen in Glasgow. There’s an act of violence that they run from, and the rest of the film takes place on the island. And really the story is about the impact that going back to the island has on her and her son, and also on the family that she left behind when she was a teenager….

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Writing by Josh Slater-Williams