14-16 October @ GFT, Glasgow 
17–23 October @ Filmhouse, Edinburgh
Scotland Loves Anime film festival returns for a seventh year, bringing with it the best of Japanese anime to Scotland. With a mix of classic films, films fresh out of Japan, guest speakers, a jury & audience award as well as an education day aimed at students of animation – there’s something for everyone in the latest edition of the festival. Film highlights includes the new film from friend of the festival, Makoto Shinkai, Your Name, which is also the first animated film to ever hit competition at the London Film Festival and is currently a storming success at the Japanese box office; A Silent Voice which will be here only a month after it opens in Japan; Kingsglaive – Final Fantasy XV which will be one of the only chances to catch the film on the big screen in the UK; and digitally restored to 2K (thanks to Andrew Partridge, Director of Scotland Loves Anime) Momotaro, Sacred Sailors, the UK premiere of the wartime animated film that inspired Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astroboy, to become an animator.
Scotland Loves Anime wouldn’t be the same without amazing guests. This year Glasgow is proud to welcome the very talented animator Yoshimi Itazu whose first directorial work Pigtails will screen in the festival followed by a Q&A with the director. The Edinburgh guest schedule is rather special this year with producer Kohei Kawase from Warner (a man with his own radio talk show in Japan no less) arriving for the festival weekend. Another very exciting guest is famed director Naoyoshi Shiotani of Psycho-Pass and Blood-C The Last Dark fame coming in early November (creating an extension of Scotland Loves Anime) to celebrate the release of Tokyo Marble Chocolate and Psycho-Pass the Movie. Long time festival supporter, Jonathan Clements will also return to present the films at both festivals and will host all talk/Q&A sessions.
There will also be the Judge’s Award category in which industry guests select the best of the festival; an Education Day hosted by Edinburgh College of Art with industry experts discussing all aspects of anime. As always, Scotland Loves Anime are giving the anime fans of Scotland (and beyond) the only chance to see many of these films theatrically in the next year and, after Glasgow and Edinburgh dates, it will be touring across Scotland.
Anthem of the Heart, A SILENT VOICE, Accel World – Infinite Burst, Belladonna of Sadness, Girls und Panzer: The Movie, HARMONY, Kingsglaive – Final Fantasy XV, Kizumonogatari 1 & 2, Momotaro – Sacred Sailors, Momotaro – Sacred Sailors, Place Promised in our Early Days, PRINCESS ARETE, PROD IG SHORTS, Production IG Shorts + Q+A, Redline, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Voices of a Distant Star & Garden of Words and Your Name

Money Monster

All-singing, all-dancing TV anchor

Held at gunpoint by fierce anti-banker
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Your career is careering from career to career. Your relationship is like a James Bond Martini: shaken, not stirred, but definitely on the rocks. And like a classic Country and Western wrist-slasher, your truck has broken down and your dog has up and died. So to cheer yourself up and stave off the inevitable, you decide to take a punt on the lottery – but the number of balls have risen from 49 to 59, thus increasing your already astronomical odds of winning. A tad disgruntled, you put a fistful of dollars on a football coupon – but the so-called “fixed odds” have shifted, not in your favour. Completely peeved, you blow the lot at one of Tony Blair’s much-trumped Super Casinos – which were kicked into the long grass because the powers-at-be decided that it would lead to “social disorder”. As the old song goes: Into each life some rain must fall!
However, if you’ve got a wad of wonga in your alliterative wallet or a string of investments in your offshore tax haven or a horde of bullion bars in your secret Swiss bank vault, batter on. In fact, why not go even further. Why not lightly regulate the financial sector? Why not make a killing by selling subprime mortgages to people without a dime? Or in the case of Walt Camby (Dominic West), the boo-hiss CEO of the “pig in a prom dress” investment company IBIS Global Capital, why not squander $800 million of shareholders’ money – $60,000 of which was the life savings of down-on-his-luck truck driver Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) – in a failed and fraudulent high-risk investment into a South African platinum mine? As another old song goes: Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant!
Such is the backdrop to this terrific thriller by director Jodie Foster and her trio of writers Alan Di Fiore, Jim Kouf and Jamie Linden which charts how one blue-collar worker rages against the machine of big business, government and the media – and when I say rages, I mean rages, because he interrupts a live broadcast of Money Monster hosted by financial guru Lee Gates (George Clooney) armed with a pair of explosive vests and a semi-automatic handgun – in a desperate attempt to hold the powerful to account and get some answers to a series of simple questions. How did this so-called “algorithm glitch” which led to an overnight 90% drop in IBIS’s trade value happen? Why was it allowed to happen? And the $800 million question: who is responsible, who is to blame?
MM 2.jpgThe performances by George Clooney and Julia Roberts as his jaded television director Patty Fenn are top-notch, particularly Clooney who alternates between all-singing, all-dancing anchorman to fearing-for-his-life mortal at the drop of the Dow Jones on BlackMonday. Jack O’Connell, who has made great strides in Hollywood since his breakthrough performances in the nitty-gritty British dramas’71 and Starred Up, is perfectly cast as the blue-collar Everyman Kyle Budwell. And the editing by the Oscar-nominated Matt Cheese (Finding Neverland), much like the writing and direction, is short, snappy and every bit as integral to the success of the film than the casting. What really lifts Money Monster from being mildly satisfying to thoroughly enjoyable though is the humour, as evidenced by the dry-as-a-bone cameraman Lenny (Lenny Venito) who when asked by the armed hostage-taker why his forehead is dripping with sweat replies: “I don’t like lifts.”
Reviewer : Peter Callaghan

Where You’re Meant to be

Release date – 17th June
There’s been a rich tradition of popular main stream musicians searching for their routes in old folk songs and stories for some time now, from Gruff Rhys and his American Interior to Sting and his Geordie sea shanties. In tone this film is somewhat reminiscent of Gruff Rhys’s splendid little documentary which is probably not surprising as the Super Fury Animals and Arab Strap, Aidan Moffat’s (the main protagonist of the film) first band, were both from a similar era and movement in music. They both kind of existed on the fringes of Britpop if you will. However the creative journey Moffat takes is much more akin to Sting’s. Drawing, as he does, his inspiration from the ballads and drinking songs of old Scottish lore that used to make him laugh as a child and re-configuring them for a contemporary, urban context. This move does not go without opposition and on his journey around the more obscure backwaters of Scotland performing his re-imaginings and one naysayer in particular makes quite an impression.
 Shiela Stewart being the lady in question and a traveler who was taught the songs as a child and made a good part of her living touring many of the same venues as Mr. Moffat. However, she believes the songs should be left as they are and to re-write them is an insult to your ancestors. After getting to know Aidan a little you start to see her point. He doesn’t seem to have a great deal of respect for the source material and gallivants about the place like some kind of red faced hedonistic sex imp. None the less, despite his slightly annoying nature he is eminently likable and an hour and a half in his company is far from jarring  (although maybe a certain scene with a Nessie doll would have been better off left on the cutting room floor). The colorful rustic characters he meets along the way also make the film something of a delight. Recalling an older, simpler time which in all probability never really existed. Still, the films shameless romanticism and even occasional flirtations with nostalgia only add to it’s charm. All in all a delightful little distraction. And for a double bill I would definitely recommend this and American Interior. Enjoy with a hot cup of bovril, your best tartan slippers and a great pot of steaming haggis.
Reviewer : Steven Vickers
Backroom hack fed up with tittle tattle
Swaps hot desk for Afghan field of battle
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 Is it a drama? Is it a romance? Is it a comedy? All of the above – and therein lies the problem. A bomb-rom-com which, despite a string of fine performances most notably from star and co-producer Tina Fey, lacks pace and bite in the drama department, sweetness and light in the romance room, and titters and delight in the comedy collective. Penned by Friends and 30 Rock writer Robert Carlock and co-directed by Bad Santa and I Love You Philip Morris writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the film’s title Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is fittingly devoid of an Oscar in that it underplays all three genres it is purporting to explore.
Based on American journalist Kim Barker’s memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan about her experiences in the Middle East, this lukewarm “dramedy” charts Kim’s journey from jaded television hack who writes corn syrup scripts “for dumb pretty people to read” to frontline war reporter who will “drink, do drugs and shag strangers in restaurant bathrooms” – including a miscast Martin Freeman as the stereotypically sozzled Scottish war photographer Iain MacKelpie – to secure a scoop back to jaded television hack who is disappointed that after several years of fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan the American public “don’t want to watch [the troops] on the air anymore”.
Hope for a fresh challenge and a new beginning blossoms and wilts. Zinger one-liners, mostly delivered from the acid tongue of a curmudgeonly Billy Bob Thornton as General Hollanek such as “this war is like fucking a gorilla: you keep going till the gorilla wants you to stop” lose their sting the longer the film meanders from comedy to action-flick to romance. A rescue mission for Kim’s Scottish beau to the tune of I Can’t Live If Living Is Without You is low in drama and high in schmaltz. And the moral of the story imparted by a marine amputee towards the end of the film feels distinctly copy and pasted: “There’s only so much any of us have control of, good or bad. You embrace the suck, you move the f**k forward. What other f**king choice do we have?” Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: not quite WTF! but certainly far from Bravo!
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Reviewer : Peter Callaghan

Friend Request

Suicidal goth described as “bitch”, “daft”
Picks off Facebookers by means of witchcraft
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With a set-up quicker than Usain Bolt with the runs (university lecturer with a hang-dog face regrettably informs his class of hungover students that one of their female classmates committed suicide over the weekend) and with a running time shorter than Jeremy “Get Me A Steak Or I’ll Punch You In The Face” Clarkson’s temper (92 minutes), it’s surprising and disappointing that German director Simon Verhoeven’s self-penned supernatural thriller Friend Request unravels with as much excitement and pace than a Thora Hird stairlift. And what’s worse, the ending suggests a sequel!
“Internet Addiction Disorder” student Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is living the life of Riley. With her Colgate smile and surfboarding boyfriend Tyler (William Moseley), she spends her days shooting the breeze with her BFFs Olivia and Isabel (Brit Morgan and Brooke Markham) taking selfies, downing cocktails and in the morning after the night before jogging along the beach like a carefree tampon model. Then, some dis-enchanted evening, she catches the eye of a stranger across a crowded room (Liesl Ahlers as Marina “Is She, Like, 12 Years Old?” Mills) and somehow she knows, she knows even then, that somewhere she’ll see her again and again.


FR Poster.jpgViewing Marina’s friendless Facebook profile, Laura discovers that the pale-faced, hooded goth who “rips her hair out during class” is actually a talented artist whose striking but disturbing images of raging fires, spooky forests and screaming children prompts her to accept her online friend request (hence the title). From then on, it’s downhill faster than Rolf Harris’s career. Messaging turns to Facetiming, chatting turns to stalking and, on the evening of Laura’s birthday, just after she says “It’s my party and I’ll deny if I want to”, Marina commits hari-kari by hanging herself over a fire while looking into a mirror – an act which Laura’s techno-geek ex-boyfriend Kobe (Connor Paulo) describes as an occult form of revenge with origins in witchcraft – and posting the footage on Facebook.
Things start to go bump in the night and, very soon, a conveyor-belt of Boyfs and BFFs start to get bumped off into oblivion. First, the self-proclaimed “white chubby kid who loves chocolate” Gustavo (Sean Marquette) who head-butts himself to death in an elevator, closely followed by his equally sweet-toothed partner in life Olivia who rips out her hair and slashes her throat (a fitting description of my intentions towards the end). Footage is shared on Laura’s Facebook timeline by someone who has hijacked her account. Attempts to delete both the images and her account are met with: “An unknown error message has occurred. Please try again later.” Laura is suspended from college, her thousand or so followers begin to jump ship and she receives an ominous message from beyond the grave: “u will know how it feels 2 b lonely.” 😦

But here’s the rub: after a promising opening, competent performances and a sprinkling of strategically placed shudders and shocks, Friend Request is frustratingly disappointing in that … the list of victims with a target on their backs is unnecessarily and predictably long; the make-up department – whose craft should go un-noticed – borders on Rocky with their none too subtle use of cold sweats, red eyes and pale faces; and despite the best efforts of director Simon Verhoeven and his co-writers Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch to breathe life into the fast-developing genre of online supernatural horrors, the old tricks of creaking doors, faulty electrics, long corridors, disturbing clowns and beheaded dolls fail to convince. As for the suggestion of a sequel: end request!
Reviewer : Peter Callaghan

Florence Foster Jenkins

Society hostess empties coffers
To play Carnegie in spite of scoffers
A syphilitic broad dubbed “the worst singer in the world” by the New York Post who is patron of the Brooklyn Orchestra for Distressed Gentlewomen, owner of a collection of “not for practical use” chairs on which people of note have expired, considers hard work to be an hour of study a day, “sometimes two” and who would rather go without bread than Mozart – is my kind of gal.
No, we’re not talking about the late, great Elaine “I’m Just A Broadway Baby” Stritch nor the later and greater Mae “I Used To Be Snow White But I Drifted” West, but the even later and even more ear-grating social hostess-cum-melody murderer Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep in sparkling form) who despite having a vocal delivery which at best can be described as spirited and at worst flatter than a witch’s tit, sold out Carnegie Hall faster than Sinatra for her legendary concert on 25 October 1944. As Ol’ Blue Eyes used to croon: It Was A Very Good Year!

Unfortunately for Florence, or as her second husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant in excellent form as a hammy British actor on the slide) used to call her Bunny, it was also the year of her death. For a month and one day after her sell-out concert at the esteemed Carnegie Hall – which Newsweek magazine described as: “Where stifled chuckles and occasional outbursts had once sufficed at the Ritz, unabashed roars were the order of the evening” – The Diva of Din passed away. In real life, of a heart attack brought on by the advanced stages of syphilis in the luxurious Hotel Seymour in New York City. In the film, ditto; but with the added contributory factor of reading a stinging review in the New York Post.

Director Stephen Frears (Philomena, The Queen) and experienced British television screenwriter Nicholas Martin (for whom this is his debut feature) play it for laughs from the off. And Meryl Streep’s first rehearsal with the effete pianist Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg as a camp Emo Philips) and money-for-old-rope vocal coach Carlo Edwards (David Haig) is the highlight of the entire film and sure to get you rolling and lol-ing in the aisles. Streep doesn’t so much miss the notes, more thunders towards them, digs in her hooves, kicks up a cloud of dust and charges off in the opposite direction. Or as the author Stephen Pile more delicately put it: “No one before or since has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation.”
But it’s not all about “mockers and scoffers”, as her supportive but far from faithful husband says. For underneath Florence’s Hyacinth Bouquet façade lies a steeliness to survive the horrors of syphilis which she contracted on her wedding night at the tender age of eighteen from her “bit of an alley cat” first husband; a well of loneliness deepened by the fact that her second husband plays away, her so-called “friends” are only with her for the money, and due to her illness sex and children are buried in the past; and perhaps most poignant of all, a misplaced belief in her own ability which is underscored in two moving zoom-outs – firstly, as she one-handedly plays Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor in McMoon’s damp-ridden apartment; and secondly, when she digs out a copy of the New York Post from a trash can and reads the stinging “worst singer in the world” review by music critic Earl Wilson (Christian McKay).

Although the film is a hoot from start to finish and, as ever, Meryl Streep is nothing short of brilliant, the screenplay by Nicholas Martin lacks a bit of heart in that it doesn’t quite go deep enough under the skin of the characters for my liking. Whether that’s to do with direction, performances, a conscious choice or nit-picking on my part, who knows. But in the end it doesn’t matter because it is a solitary bum note in a symphony of joy. Hugh Grant gives his best performance in over a decade. The conveyor belt of British character actors rise to the rare occasion of being offered a role in a feature. And, above all, the spirit of Florence Foster Jenkins shines through. “People may say I couldn’t sing,” she says after her farewell concert at Carnegie Hall, “but no one can say I didn’t sing.”

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Reviewer : Peter Callaghan

The Jungle Book

Revenge-seeking tiger chases man-cub
From wolf pack to homo sapien hub
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“The strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” So says wolf pack leader Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) to orphan man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who is forced to flee from his adopted home in the jungle to a distant man-village when a scar-faced tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) seeks revenge after the young boy’s late father branded him with the fiery glow of “the red flower”.

The story (or rather collection of stories and poems, for there were fourteen in total), as laid down by Rudyard Kipling over a hundred years ago and since immortalised in numerous films, comic strips and stage plays – most notably the 1967 animated comedy which featured the hit songs The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You, both of which are reprised in wonderful trad-jazz style in director Jon Favreau’s current adaptation – is widely known.

However, if like me you happen to be one of the few people alive who has neither read the original nor watched one of the many spin-offs, fret not. For writer Justin Marks has done an excellent job of infusing the litany of characters and labyrinthine plot with warmth and affection, humour and depth, which as the PG rating suggests appeals to both children and the child within. Though several of the fight sequences push the boundary of “mild threat”, so those with very young or sensitive children beware: hands may squeezed, eyes may be averted and urine may be accidentally spilled!
12-year-old Neel Sethi, as one of only three non-CGI characters (the others being Ritesh Rajan as Mowgli’s father and Kendrick Reyes as a younger Mowgli, both in blink-and-you-miss-them roles), is brilliantly cast and turns in a wonderfully nuanced performance as the man-cub Mowgli who with his big brown eyes in the beginning is the picture of butter wouldn’t melt, when confronted by the perplexing shrugs and gesticulates like a mini-Woody Allen and, to quote from Kipling’s most famous poem If, having met “triumph and disaster” and treated “those two imposters just the same” by the end drops the boy from his title and becomes “a Man, my son!”

Offering stellar support in the voice-over department are Ben Kingsley as the wise panther Bagheera who doubles as the narrator, Idris Elba as the boo-hiss tiger Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as the sultry python Kaa, Christopher Walken as the orangutan-like King Louie whose humungous frame emerges from the shadows like an overweight Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now and – in scene-stealing, almost film-stealing, form – Bill Murray as the slothful bear Baloo whose riotous rendition of The Bare Necessities is worth the entrance money alone.


The CGI is nothing short of terrific, with each bird and beast not only frighteningly realistic but also imbued with enough human characteristics to make them more quirky and endearing than, say, real-life creatures in a David Attenborough documentary or forensic recreations in films such as Life of Pi. The same goes for the jungle backdrop of towering trees and crashing mudslides through which Mowgli is pursued by the fearsome Shere Khan. And the score by John Debney, which also features a revised version of I Wanna Be Like You performed with George Melly abandon by Christopher Walken, is toe-tappingly sublime. Go see!
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Reviewer :Peter Callaghan


Hardcore Henry

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Wheelchair-bound scientist soldiers labots
To create an army of fierce robots

An 18 certificate film with the word “Hardcore” in its title about a titular character who shoots his load over an endless parade of Muscle Marys does not sound like everyone’s cup of Horlicks. And it isn’t. Though not for the reasons I alluded to. Following on from the ground-breaking cinematic experiments of recent years such as the found footage of The Blair Witch Project, the continuous tracking shot of Birdman and the single location of Locke, director Ilya Naishuller (frontman for the Russian indie rock band Biting Elbows) has raised the bar by adopting the first person perspective of computer game shoot-‘em-ups to terrific but ultimately soulless effect. Think Kiss Kiss Bang Bang minus the smoochies and with more bullets per second than the final scene of Bonnie and Clyde.
HH Pic 1.jpgThe plot, what there is of it, isn’t really the problem – a stiff with missing limbs is brought back to life courtesy of cybernetics (the fusion of technology and tissue), but due to a malfunction of memory retention is hunted down by his Andy Warhol-meets-Kurt Cobain creator who is building an army of herculean robots to aid him on his quest for world domination. The performances, what there are of them, aren’t really the problem – though the titular Henry is mute, his conveyor belt of enemies are killed without so much as an “I say, dear chap” and one of the main characters Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) shapeshifts so much that he gives Tommy Cooper’s hat sketch a run for its money. And the first-person point-of-view, which bar a couple of scenes which bookend the film is used throughout, isn’t really the problem either – in fact, the director, his cinematographers, special effects team and stuntmen have done an amazing job of making the film look seamless, authentic and visceral.
What is the problem – and it is a biggie – is the violence which give or take a few moments of stillness or surrealism is relentless, bloody and by the end downright tiresome. Something which the creative team have tried to guard against by infusing proceedings with flashes of humour such as a flame-throwing assassin wearing “the gayest jacket I’ve ever seen”, a confusion of subtitles filling the screen when a brace of Russian dominatrices argue with their client, a brief but brilliant homage to Bonanza and the piece de resistance a Pythonesque song and dance routine of the Frank Sinatra classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” which almost, almost turns this 2 star disappointment into a bizarre but engaging 3 star crowd-pleaser. Ultimately, however, Hardcore Henry’s flaws far outweigh its plus points and like many of the cyborgs who shuffled off their mortal coils, by the end I wanted to gouge my bloody eyes out.
Reviewer : Peter Callaghan