Cameo Cinema

My Neighbor Totoro

11/03/18

After the harrowing Grave of the Fireflies, the next film in the Cameo Cinema’s Studio Ghibli season comes as a slice of light relief. My Neighbor Totoro is the enchanting story of two intrepid young girls from the city, Satsuki (voiced by Noriko Hadaka) and her little sister, Mei (Chika Sakamoto). In the opening scenes, we watch as the girls move with their father to a dilapidated house in the Japanese countryside in order to be closer to their mother, who is ill in hospital (with what, exactly, we are never told).

The old house harbours some fascinating secrets, including the little creatures called ‘Soot Spreaders’, who haunt the dark corners of each room and scatter away whenever humans approach; but Satsuki and Mei seem to greet such visitors with interest and delight, rather than dread. If there’s a central message here it seems to be ‘embrace the inexplicable’ and that’s exactly what the girls do, encouraged by the enthusiasm and positivity of their father. They soon make friends with Granny (Tania Kitabayashi), an old lady who lives nearby and even with Kanta (Toshiyuki Amagasa), a teenage boy who initially appears to be unfriendly but who proves to be a friend when push comes to shove. The girls also discover that the nearby forest is home to a collection of mystical creatures, not least the strange shambling clawed beast known as Totoro, who, unlike most monsters, turns out to friendly and helpful.

As in ‘Fireflies,’ this story perfectly captures the essence of a moody but resourceful  little girl (Mei) and her interplay with Totoro provides much of the humour here. Their antics are often laugh-out-loud funny. The storyline has strong echoes of Alice In Wonderland, particularly in Mei’s pursuit of a rabbit-like creature down an underground opening and in the form of a Cheshire Cat-headed magical ‘coach’, summoned by Totoro to take the girls off on fantastic adventures. Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this is a delightful film that has genuine appeal for all ages. It’s also quite beautiful to look at – some of the gorgeous woodland vistas captured here would not look out of place on the walls of an art gallery.

Utterly beguiling. The Cameo’s season continues on Sunday 18th of March with Kiki’s Delivery Service. Get those tickets booked now!!

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Train to Busan

31/10/16

Zombie movies are a bit like buses: you wait for what seems like ages for a decent one and then two crackers come along at pretty much the same time. No sooner are we over extolling the genre-busting virtues of The Girl With All The Gifts, than Train to Busan comes thundering down the track. We’ve all heard of Snakes on a Plane, but Zombies on a train? One look at the trailer was enough to convince us that this should be our Halloween movie of choice.

South Korean writer/director Sang-ho Yeon is in the driver’s seat of this adrenalin-fuelled delight, which eschews the slow-witted lumbering zombies of George Romero and substitutes them for some hot-footed, rabid berserkers that would leave the crowd from 28 Days Later standing on the platform. They are everywhere in this film – tumbling through glass doors, raining down out of the sky and, at one point, forming an inhuman chain clinging tenaciously onto the back of a locomotive. It’s fast, it’s frantic and, above all, it’s fun to watch.

Our hero is Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) a wealthy fund manager who, from the very outset, presents as a man who looks after his own best interests. When he is obliged to (very reluctantly) escort his young daughter, Soo-an (the adorable Soo-an Kim) to Busan to rendezvous with her mother – from whom Seok Woo is separated – he expects nothing more than an uneventful journey. But there’s a barely glimpsed ‘incident’ at the station where the train starts from and an injured woman stumbles aboard and locks herself in the toilet. When she emerges, she is one of the undead and she quickly sets about biting everyone she encounters. This is a disease that travels like wildfire and, within minutes, the train is full of unwelcome travellers.  Seok Woo and a band of fellow passengers will have to use every trick they can think of if they hope to survive to the end of the line…

Like most zombie movies, this is more than it might at first appear. The train is a great big metaphor for humanity and it quickly becomes apparent that the most dastardly travellers on board are the ones who care only about themselves. Chief among them is Yong-Suk (Eui-sung Kim) a man who thinks nothing of flinging a helpless teenage girl to the ravening hordes in order to cause a diversion to escape their clutches. Time and again, the nice people (the socialists) are seen sacrificing themselves in order to help others. The question is, which side will Seok Woo end up on?

Don’t worry – this doesn’t feel anything like a lecture. While you could argue that Train to Busan isn’t particularly scary, it makes up for that shortfall by ramping events up to almost unbearable levels of suspense, utilising some incredible set pieces along the way. This is quite simply a cinematic thrill ride, one that grips like a vice all the way to its (heartbreaking) conclusion.

Don’t miss out. Book your ticket to ride before this one pulls out of the platform and disappears over the horizon.

4.8 stars

Philip Caveney

 

Love & Friendship

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29/05/16

Cameo, Edinburgh

Love & Friendship is an amalgamation of two early novellas (Lady Susan and Love and Freindship [sic]), penned by the esteemed Jane Austen when she was still in her teens. It’s a witty, acerbic tale, and seems true to the spirit of this oft-misunderstood writer in a way that many screen adaptations of her work do not. Romance, here, is never really the point; we don’t really care who marries whom. Instead, this is a satire: a deliciously wry examination of how people manipulate social mores.

Kate Beckinsale, as Lady Susan, is superbly cast. She is undoubtedly a venal fiend, and yet we root for her because… well, why not? She’s attractively rebellious and unrepentant in her selfishness, and – if some men are idiotic enough to fall for her games – then really, more fool them.

Most engagingly foolish of all is Tom Bennett’s James Martin, an affable buffoon, whose lack of intelligence is more than compensated by the size of his estate. Bennett milks his role’s comic potential, clearly relishing the chance to ask, in all seriousness, which of the twelve commandments he is allowed to break.

Oh, it’s a slight film all right, like Austen’s books,”a little bit (two inches wide) of ivory” – but it’s crammed full with such verve and vivacity that it’s hard to think of a more engaging way to spend an afternoon. Especially when we’re in the delightful environs of Edinburgh’s oldest and most loved cinema, the superb Cameo, where we’ve recently become members.

4.1 stars

Susan Singfield