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Movie review: 'Furiosa' relishes vast and furious world – UPI.com

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Movie review: 'Furiosa' relishes vast and furious world – UPI.com

1 of 5 | Anya Taylor-Joy is “Furiosa.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

LOS ANGELES, May 15 (UPI) — Furiosa, in theaters May 24, need not be another Mad Max: Fury Road, which was a high watermark for cinema, let alone this franchise. It would be fine to be another Thunderdome, which was also good, but Furiosa still exceeds even those measured expectations.

In the post-apocalyptic wasteland, young Furiosa (Alyla Browne) is kidnapped from the Green Place by members of Dementus’ (Chris Hemsworth) Congress of Destruction. None of the congressmen live to tell Dementus where this oasis is and Furiosa won’t talk either.

So Dementus keeps Furiosa hostage, even bringing her to The Citadel to attempt to overtake its warlord, Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) and his army of War Boys. Much later, and now played by Anya Taylor-Joy, Furiosa plots her escape and revenge against Dementus.

The Mad Max world George Miller created supports different forms of storytelling in each film. Fury Road was propulsive and bombastic while Thunderdome was more localized to one region of the wasteland, and a second that Max discovers after being exiled.

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The first sequel, The Road Warrior was more of a vehicular heist movie while the original film was more of a drama than an action movie. Closer to Thunderdome, Furiosa lives in the worlds introduced by Fury Road but it is no less epic.

Because Furiosa is a prequel to Fury Road, fans know that Furiosa ends up with Immortan Joe, shaves her head and loses her arm. Still, those events occur naturally, sometimes incidentally, and never stop the movie to point out the callbacks.

The Citadel and Immortan Joe’s harem of concubines were first seen as Fury Road plowed through them in chase scenes. Here, entire scenes get to play out in those realms.

Furiosa visits the neighboring Gastown and Bullet Farms, who provided armies for Fury Road’s chase but now are settings for plot and action. Dementus’ encampment is a new enclave of the wasteland.

The film introduces awesome new vehicles for chases between Immortan Joe and Dementus’ men, with Furiosa in the middle of it all. But, in a bittersweet irony, the longevity of the Mad Max franchise now means that the current film employs more screen work than its predecessors, which simply didn’t have that luxury.

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Perhaps Miller’s imagination finally got bigger than could be built in the real world. There is still real vehicular work, but many sequences appear to use The Volume technology to allow the filmmakers to film in front of backgrounds unfolding on a screen behind them.

Fury Road combined shots and enhanced backgrounds digitally, but a tanker chase in the middle of Furiosa is particularly glaring. It looks like they used Fury Road as the backdrop for the new movie.

Coloring the sky to look more apocalyptic is fine. Putting the sky on a screen behind actors looks far less natural.

The sequence is still full of new contraptions, like parasails and a metal claw like a full size version of a claw machine in an arcade. Miller still uses the camera dynamically in these sequences, judiciously following the assault on a tanker from all sides.

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But when it cuts to Taylor-Joy standing on a real outback road, it’s a relief to be back in the real world.

The Citadel was already a digitally enhanced set in Fury Road. Having more stationary dialogue scenes on those sets allows more time to notice the background when characters are chatting on impossibly high catwalks.

There’s still probably more vehicular work than any other Hollywood movie, just less than Mad Max films used to employ. They do drive over a dozen War Boys standing atop a tanker down the desert road.

The final chase looks like they’re really driving on sand dunes, except for closeups but that’s fair to cut to reaction shots. A shootout occurs on an outdoor set.

So these are still Mad Max action sequences created by George Miller, and designed by Guy Norris. They’re playing with more tools than used to be available, and watching War Boys fling themselves off moving vehicles to self-immolate never gets old.

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In the score, Junkie XL himself, Tom Holkenborg, employs some of the memorable cues from his Fury Road score for relevant action scenes. But elsewhere, he lets the music be subtle for this film’s dramatic attention.

The world Miller created in 1979 continues to generate worthwhile new stories and engrossing places to explore. With Furiosa as compelling as Max Rockatansky, that world grows even more vast.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

Left to right, Belgian director Zoe Wittock, French journalist Nathalie Chifflet, Belgian director/rapper Baloji, French actress Emmanuelle Beart, cinematographer Gilles Porte and writer Pascal Buron attend the Camera D’Or Jury photo call at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 15, 2024. Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI | License Photo
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Movie Reviews

‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

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‘The Village Next to Paradise’ Review: Somali Family Drama Doubles as a Potent Portrait of Life in the Shadow of War

Mo Harawe’s debut feature The Village Next to Paradise is a haunting offering. The film, which premiered at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section and is the first Somali film to ever screen on the Croisette, presents a compelling narrative of one family’s survival in a sleepy Somali town. But it’s the devastating backdrop against which their drama plays out that lingers long after the credits roll. 

The siren wails of drones soundtrack each scene of Harawe’s film, which opens with footage of a real-life report of a United States drone strike on Somalia. Since the U.S. began using drones in the East African country in the early 2000s, Somalis have suffered at the hands of an enveloping and ravenous counterterrorism operation. According to data from the New America foundation, there have been more than 300 documented uses of drones resulting in hundreds of known civilian deaths.

The Village Next to Paradise

The Bottom Line

Uneven but affecting.

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Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)
Cast: Ahmed Ali Farah, Ahmed Mohamud Saleban, Anab Ahmed Ibrahim
Director-screenwriter: Mo Harawe

2 hours 13 minutes

The fatal impact of contemporary warfare organizes life in Paradise village, a locale whose name seems more melancholic with time. Marmargade (Ahmed Ali Farah), a principal character in Harawe’s languorous film, makes money doing odd jobs, but one of his most lucrative gigs involves burying the dead. Some of the people for whom he finds a place in the sandy terrain died of natural causes, but many of them are victims of foreign airstrikes. When this business slows, Marmargade reluctantly smuggles a truck full of goods — the contents of which play a pivotal role later — to a nearby city. 

Because Marmargade knows the realities of living in a place shrouded by the shadow of death, he strives for a better life for his son Cigaal (Ahmed Mohamud Saleban), a buoyant kid who thinks nothing of the constant buzzing coming from the sky. When the local school cancels classes for the year because of chronic absenteeism among the teachers, Marmargade works to send Cigaal to a school in the city, where safety is more than an illusion. But Cigaal doesn’t want to leave his family, friends or his life in the village. When Marmargade proposes this new life to him, the child rejects the idea. 

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The main narrative of The Village Next to Paradise revolves around the conflicting desires within this makeshift family. Marmargade lives with his sister Araweelo (Anab Ahmed Ibrahim), a recently divorced woman who wants to build her own tailoring shop. The two have the kind of fractious relationship resulting from years of mistrust. She thinks her brother should be honest with Cigaal instead of trying to trick the young one into going to school. Marmargade wants his sister’s financial support more than her advice. After she refuses to lend him the money for tuition, Marmargade makes a series of decisions that threatens all their livelihoods. 

Harawe’s film contains many admirable elements. With its unhurried pacing and tender focus on a single family, The Village Next to Paradise recalls Gabriel Martins’ 2022 feature Mars One. And the way Harawe structures the film around a broader geopolitical conflict resembles the role the Chadian civil war played in Mahamet Saleh Haroun’s  2010 film A Screaming Man, which also premiered at Cannes. The cinematography (by Mostafa El Kashef) offers truly striking images that conjure up the ghostly atmosphere of this village without turning its people into caricatures for a Western gaze hungry for a particular kind of poverty porn. 

But The Village Next to Paradise is also hobbled in places by its meandering narrative and occasionally wooden performances from Harawe’s cast of local nonprofessional actors. The sharpness of Harawe’s vision is dulled by a story that takes one too many detours before settling into itself. Characters with dubious relevance are introduced and then dropped, while ones who come to play crucial roles don’t get an appropriate amount of screen time.

The film becomes more dynamic in its latter half, when Marmargade’s desperation leads him to questionable decisions that clash with Araweelo’s desires. Indeed, it’s also during these parts of the film that Harawe pulls the strongest performances from his actors, who otherwise struggle to shake off an understandable stiffness. 

Despite these flaws, Harawe’s film does have a real staying power. The Village Next to Paradise orients itself around a quiet optimism and surprising humor that mirror real life. There are moments throughout that serve as a reminder that even in places where death feels close, hope for tomorrow is still alive.

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Short Film Review: Karita (2023) by Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda

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Short Film Review: Karita (2023) by Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda

“So I came here…”

Headed by actress-turned-director Virginia de Witt and Koji Ueda, a Kyoto-born Tokyo-based director, photographer, and filmmaker, “Karita” is a film inspired by the manga series “Nana”, while trying to answer the question, what if “Lost in Translation” was cast with the “Fleabag” character. The 17-minute short will be premiering at the Dances With Films Festival on June 22nd in Los Angeles.

The film begins with a series of impressive images from nighttime Tokyo, while the ominous music suggests that something dangerous is about to happen. The next scene has two women walking in the streets during the day, as Nico, an American, is shown around Tokyo by her friend
and supervisor at a local record store, Rumi. The camera is shaky and the cuts frantic, while there is a different dialogue heard in the background. The next, dominated by neon pink lights scene, brings us to the location the dialogue is taking place, inside a bar, where the two girls are talking to two boys and one girl, with Nico asking them if they have ever done anything dangerous. One of the boys, Ren, starts talking about people stealing cars. Nico shares her own experience in the US, which makes everyone in the table rather amused.

The night continues with a lot of drinking and eventually, Rumi decides to go home, cautioning her friend not to do anything stupid, before she goes. The next scene takes place in a garage with a sports car, which belongs to the uncle of the second of the boys in the company, Kenji. Suki, the other girl, who is quite drunk, insists they take the car for a drive, despite the yakuza-like uncle having specifically cautioned his nephew otherwise. In the end, with Ren in the driver’s seat, they take a drive around Tokyo.

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Unfolding much like a road-movie/music video, “Karita” will definitely stand out due to its impressive visuals, with Koi Ueda’s cinematography, in combination with the impressive lighting and coloring, capturing night time Tokyo in the most impressive fashion. Curtis Anthony Williams’s frequently frantic editing also adds to this sense, while the rather fast pace definitely suits the overall aesthetics here.

At the same time, there is a part of the movie that is quite realistic as the group visit various locations, as a pier, a convenience store, the record store, and the aftermaths of getting drunk and doing stupid things is also highlighted. A pinch of humor, as in the whole concept of the uncle and Suki’s actions, and some notions of romance, cement the rather entertaining narrative here.

Virginia de Witt plays the foreigner that tries to appear cool in order to fit in with gusto, while Haruka Hirata as Rumi is quite convincing as the “cautious” friend, with the chemistry of the two also being on a very high level, presenting a rather kawaii relationship between them. The other actress that stands out here is Mika Ushiko, who is quite convincing as the drunk Suki.

As mentioned before though, the aspect that makes “Karita” stand out is definitely its production values, which are on a level very rarely met in short films, while being the main reason the movie definitely deserves a watch. All in all, a very appealing film, in an effort that intrigues on what the filmmakers could do with a bigger budget in their hands, that would allow them to explore the script and the characters more.

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Woof Woof Daddy: Aaron Kwok plays a reincarnated mutt in doggy mess

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Woof Woof Daddy: Aaron Kwok plays a reincarnated mutt in doggy mess

1/5 stars

Filmmakers’ relationship with dogs over the years has proved just as rewarding as other people’s bond with their loyal, four-legged companions. They have produced classic weepies (Old Yeller), thrilling adventures (The Call of the Wild), uproarious comedies (Beethoven), and countless animated favourites.

Asian cinema has supplied many memorable entries, including Hachiko and Koreyoshi Kurahara’s Antarctica, both of which inspired Hollywood remakes.

The secret to a compelling canine caper is either brilliantly trained animal performers or engaging animated characters – whatever effectively brings a dog’s personality to the fore – and showing them having meaningful relationships with human characters around them.

Sadly, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing’s new movie Woof Woof Daddy accomplishes none of this; it is an underwhelming combination of lazy writing, unlikeable performances and woefully subpar visual effects.

There is so much wrong with the film it is difficult to know where to begin. Suffice to say that, even within the fuzzy lines of its own insultingly half-baked premise, the film does not make a lick of sense.

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Kwok plays single father Siwang, who moonlights as a rock star between shifts at a confectionery factory. His only fan is his nine-year-old daughter Lulu (Xing Yunjia), who is left to fend for herself when Siwang is killed in a freak accident.

Banished to the afterlife, the desperate dad rebels against his assigned fate and, 24 years later, is magically reincarnated as a puppy.

Xing Yunjia as a young Lulu (centre) in a still from Woof Woof Daddy.

With remarkable ease he tracks down Lulu (Lyric Lan Yingying), who is a failing pop singer trapped in a loveless engagement to her sleazebag manager (Darren Wang Da-lu).

Siwang muscles his way back into Lulu’s, determined to help his daughter get back on her feet, despite being trapped in a small furry body.

Chief among Woof Woof Daddy’s many failings is its visual effects; the dog looks absolutely rotten, even for a modestly budgeted mainland Chinese quickie like this.

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On the page, the film fares even worse. Siwang the dog is essentially magic: he walks on two legs, holds objects between his paws, and responds to literally anything said to him; he even plays the guitar. Yet nobody bats an eyelid.

Why Siwang does not make Lulu a millionaire simply by existing is never discussed. All director Kexin Lu Ke deems to be of value is Kwok’s immature father earning a redemptive reunion with his daughter; that, and the fact the dog lays a few scatological poop jokes along the way.

Lyric Lan (front) as the adult Lulu in a still from Woof Woof Daddy.

Laboured from start to finish, Woof Woof Daddy is one bad dog that deserves to go straight to the pound.

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