Assassination Classroom: Graduation

Last year, Assassination Classroom, screened in Cottage Road, was one of the unexpected (for me, at least) triumphs of the whole festival. We’d gone to it knowing that it sounded dead weird (an octopus like alien appears on Earth and becomes a school teacher. His class have the rest of the year to learn how to kill him) but not knowing much else about it. And it was great. Not just, a bit of good fun but really, entertainingly, memorably great. And utterly silly.

So the sequel came with some expectations to live up to. Could one of our favourite films of last year possibly keep up the quality? The answer is: yes, mostly.

Assassination Classroom: Graduation is a somewhat different film to the first. Whilst the first was a series of escalating madcap scenarios in which the class might kill the teacher, this one has a (relatively) more straight-faced tone. We trade in some of the more slapstick elements for a quite wonderful superhero backstory parody (think Wolverine!), a love interest and grittier fighting. This does mean its not quite the same ridiculous fun as the original, but I don;t think they really could have sustained that. Instead of just trying to do the same but more, we get a pretty decent superhero film – much like Deadpool this both teases and lives up to the superhero tropes – with a dash of yellow octopus thrown in.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend starting here – you need to see the original first – but this ticked all the right boxes. Excellent stuff.

Drinks
Kirkstall Dissolution Extra IPA. Excellent as ever.

Kids Police

Tokyo is overrun with violence and crime. The shady organisation, Red Venus, is responsible. The police are helpless. So a special taskforce is formed with the sole intention of bring down Red Venus… …and then in an unfortunate incident with some magic gas are all turned into children. Uh… yes. The central premise is pretty damn funny. We get the wise-cracking cops, gun-toting violence, street brawls and all the hallmarks of 70s cop shows, but the lead characters are all children. It’s a well studied spoof – full of double-crossing, hidden identities, kidnap and love-interests.

Sadly, its not quite funny enough. At the end of the day, the ‘the-police-are-kids’ shtick boils down to one joke stretched out over the course of the whole film. The rest is good but it’s never on the Naked Gun level of funny, and relies on the kids joke a little too much. I didn’t realise when I saw it, but this is actually a spin-ff from a hit TV show. I imagine it works somewhat better in small episodes. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable watch.

Drinks
five Points Railway Porter. Back in the Hyde Park Picture House, and back to the best porter around.

Fukushima, Mon Amour

This wasn’t one I’d had on my own list. I saw the words Fukushima, disaster, coping, sadness and other similar terms and decided to give it a wide berth. I like a film with a bit of sadness. But misery? I’ll usually give that a miss. Despite this I heard nothing but good things about it and decided to go to the re-screening.

As with so many others of the festival, this is an odd one. A German woman arrives a Fukushima, ready to perform as a clown to lift the displaced locals’ spirits. I mean… what? She speaks no Japanese and her clowning is pretty rudimentary. She quickly begins to question her decision. I really don’t want to give too much away but what follows is quite beautiful. It’s a tale if guilt and loss, of loneliness and companionship, and of pride and humility. It’s no surprise that parts of it are very sad – what did you expect from a film about Fukushima? – but it’s fascinating throughout. I obviously have no real sense of its authenticity but as a peek into Japanese life in the post-disaster region its an eye opener.

Drinks
Five PointsRailway Porter. Rounding out my Five Points drinking with my favourite of their beers. This is the one that made me aware of Five Points, several years ago at the Leeds Beer Festival. It’s a perfectly balanced porter and, without doubt, one of my favourite beers.

The Red Turtle

The Red Turtle is a gentle and touching film about er… life and stuff. And turtles. Who might be ladies. Or not.

It comes with the Studio Ghibli stamp of approval – their first non-Japanese production – and has many of the hallmarks of a Ghibli film, but it’s certainly not an imitation. Dialogue-free we follow an unnamed seafarer washed up on a desert island. His repeated attempts to escape mysteriously thwarted, we watch him make a home on the island and spend his life there.

It’s quite wonderful in that it’s fun and sad, and big and small all at once. I haven’t really tried to dig too hard into whether it all means something – and I don’t think I want to. It’s satisfyingly open to interpretation but stands on its own as well. I’d struggle to explain it to anyone, but I’d happily watch it again. Oh and the score was beautiful.

So… yeah. Life and stuff. With turtles. And pretty music.

Drinks
Pressure Drop‘s ENZ IPA. A strong one (~7%) from Tallboys beer market in Leeds. I think I’ve enjoyed every Pressure Drop beer I’ve had and this was great: really big flavours.

Belladonna of Sadness

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Belladonna of Sadness is mid-70s piece of erotic psychedelia that tells a story that has loose connections to Joan of Arc. We have all the usual suspects – feudal lords, tax collectors, peasants and pages – as well as the (penis-shaped) Devil, village-wide orgies and the plague.

It’s a difficulte one to describe really. And hard to say whether I actually enjoyed it. The animation is gorgeous. Butterflies, flowers and Aubrey Beardsley-esque figures – all long slender limbs and luxurious hair – writhe and twist through the film, splashed everywhere with bright colours. And the soundtrack is fantastic (and available from the ever wonderful Finders Keepers records). But I think there was just too much of it. I really didn’t need 90 minutes of it to sort of get the point. A half hour does would probably have done just fine. It’s very much the product of an era of excess and indulgence – you can really feel that in the film – but perhaps having been reined in a little bit wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Drink Brew Dog‘s red ale 5AM Saint. It’s long been a favourite of mine – definitely the best of the Brewdog range for a balance of big tasting without being ridiculously strong. They tried to drop the ‘Saint’ a few years ago, making it the much plainer ‘5AM Red Ale’, but luckily they saw the error of their ways and named it back again. Tasty beer.

Trailer here:

Kizumonogatari

Anime day rolls into town. Or… is that Animation day? The East-Asian focus of the day has now been dropped, to allow a broader focus. This is no bad thing (hardcore anime fans may disagree… But they’re wrong). Despite this, the majority of the offerings this year are still Japanese. First up is Kizumonogatari. And oh boy is it bad.

The description sounds pretty appealing: a queen amongst vampires is found in a subway station in a pool of her own blood, relieved of all four of her limbs. Her discoverer, rescuer and soon-to-be minion must battle a series of vampire-hunters to win back her limbs. So far so good, right?

Wrong. The vampire plot is OK, but the woven in love story is excruciatingly awful. Add to that that it appears to be drawn and scripted by a handful of lonely, frustrated, Japanese teenage boys and you’re onto something truly painful. The love interest’s irritating breasts take every opportunity to swell, swing or bounce in gleeful physics-defying abandon. And that’s before we worry about the sheer number of times her school (!) skirt blows up to reveal her pants. Yikes.

The Vampire queen is similarly ridiculous. She’s literally only tolerable when her powers are so low that she reverts to childhood. Aside from that she’s all popping breasts and upskirt angles. It’s not really sexy, so much as embarrassing.

Its few redeeming features lie in the battles – they are undeniably pretty good fun. Shedding limbs here and there, wielding a lawn-roller and one particularly good disembowelling are not quite enough to save this film but they did make at least 15-20 minutes of the 2 hours of it bearable.

Avoid.

Drinks This screened early enough in the day that a drink didn’t seem necessary. In hindsight, this was not a good choice.