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Recon review – GIs on a mission to nowhere | War films

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The Tenet-style action “rewind” in Recon’s opening scene suggests this adaptation of Richard Bausch’s 2008 novel Peace, based on his grandfather’s wartime experiences, might offer more than the average second world war thriller. Don’t get your hopes up. There’s no time travel, nor multi-perspective narrative tricks, nor even an innovative depiction of trauma’s impact on memory. Recon takes place in just the single dimension of reality, and a rather leaden one at that.

Alexander Ludwig (Vikings) stars as Marson, a US army corporal stationed somewhere in Italy, who is sent trudging into the mountains by a callous commanding officer on a pointless and potentially suicidal reconnaissance mission. He and his small crew are irritable, exhausted and haunted by a recently witnessed war crime, all of which they articulate at length as they struggle through the snow. Their guide is an elderly farmer (Franco Nero, AKA Mr Vanessa Redgrave; furnishing the film with some Italian suavity) who was unfortunate enough to have crossed their path. He may or may not be a secret Nazi sympathiser leading them into a trap, and his habit of mumbling, “I had a family … tutti morti,” doesn’t do much to allay suspicions.

The soldiers’ chit-chat has some Catch-22-esque wit to it – especially when delivered by Marson’s Brooklyn-accented brother-in-arms Asch (a standout Chris Brochu). But there’s altogether too much of it. In a real combat situation, surely arguing this loudly about Hershey bars and baseball odds would have drawn the unwelcome attention of enemy forces, with deadly consequences. The fact that it doesn’t here saps any potential dramatic tension from the situation, notwithstanding all the unseen snipers and landmines they encounter. Bausch’s book has been praised for its existential profundity on religious matters, but very little of that makes it to the screen.

• Recon is available on digital platforms from 18 January.


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The Masque of the Red Death review – horribly apt Poe adaptation | Film

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Roger Corman’s 1964 movie The Masque of the Red Death is taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s eerie tale from the medieval mist, about a plague closing in on the castle of a cruel and wealthy sensualist. Disease is the implacable god. It’s a horribly appropriate moment for this film’s reappearance.

This is an expressionist horror-ballet, extravagantly shot by cinematographer Nicolas Roeg, and for all its theatricality and Grand Guignol, there is really nothing absurd in it. In fact, Corman’s formal artistry and conviction on a limited budget look more impressive than ever, and with his iconic Poe adaptations he did more than anyone in academe to establish the author’s position in the literary canon. That disturbing red-clad figure, and the villain’s horror of the colour red, are surely a premonition of Roeg’s later masterpiece Don’t Look Now, and the mysterious cowled figure and final apocalyptic procession make it almost an indie-pulp American equivalent of Ingmar Bergman.

Sonorous Vincent Price plays Prince Prospero, an Italian nobleman with the power of life and death over the poor villagers who are already terrorised by the “red death” pestilence, foretold or caused by a mysterious figure in a red cloak who sits in the bleak forest, his back against a gnarled tree, impassively dealing out tarot cards. On a vicious whim, Prospero orders a beautiful, pious peasant girl called Francesca (Jane Asher), together with her betrothed Gino (David Weston) and father Ludovico (Nigel Green), to be brought back to his castle, where he is preparing to host a magnificent masquerade ball for all his cringing courtier-sycophants, including the resentful Alfredo (Patrick Magee). To Francesca’s horror, Prospero reveals that he and his favoured mistress Juliana (Hazel Court) are satanists, and that this gruesome festival will be an orgy of indulgence climactically offered up to the evil one, in the very midst of poverty and sickness.

In fact, screenwriters Charles Beaumont and R Wright Campbell drew on other Poe stories, including Hop-Frog, about a person with dwarfism employed as a jester and humiliated by the king. In this movie, Hop Toad (Skip Martin) is a dwarf jester who is required to perform a deeply strange dance for the assembled jeering aristocrats at Prospero’s hideous court with his love, Esmeralda (Verina Greenlaw) – and they are then abused and insulted. It really is one of the weirdest things about a captivatingly weird film.

The colour scheme reveals itself like a Dulux sample chart from hell, as characters walk through rooms in Prospero’s castle that are each decorated in one colour – a very bad trip, like the ending of 2001. The “yellow” room, we learn, was used as a sadistic prison by Prospero’s father for one of his enemies and, on his release, the man could not bear to look at the sun. The entire film, in fact, seems to take place at night, or in that artificial day-for-night twilight I associate with Hammer vampire movies. The Masque of the Red Death moves with a sinuous, unselfconscious elegance.

• The Masque of the Red Death is released on digital platforms, Blu-ray and DVD on 25 January.


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Tokyo Dragon Chef review – ramen-themed yakuza musical comedy | Film

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Cult Japanese filmmaker Yoshihiro Nishimura, who started off doing special effects before moving into the director’s chair, is best known for pulpy, action-horror fare with self-explanatory titles such as Mutant Girls Squad and Tokyo Gore Police, as well as the more enigmatically monikered Meatball Machine Kodoku.

Tokyo Dragon Chef, I’m assuming, lies tonally between the one about gore police and the one about meatball machines given it’s about a pair of ageing yakuza thugs, Ryu (Yasukaze Motomiya) and Tatsu (Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi), who decide to open a ramen restaurant. Their speciality, which does indeed look darn tasty, is a recipe Tatsu honed while doing time and working in the prison’s mess hall, a kind of ma po tofu with ramen.

Soon, their tiny venue is drawing rave reviews from YouTubers and a pretty schoolgirl (played by pop star Rinne Yoshida) comes round to sing songs about ramen because – of course – this is also a musical. But then another pair of rival ex-yakuza types (the joke is that all four actors used to play gangsters in straighter films back in the day) start up a food truck business selling ramen across the street. What’s more, they’ve hired a buxom, pink-haired creature in a latex bodysuit (Saiko Yatsuhashi) who may not actually be human and somehow never feels the strain of the enormous quantities of food she can eat.

The Japanese dialogue is probably much funnier than the subtitles make it seem, but it’s hard not to suspect that even native speakers might find the film’s concept more amusing than its execution. You have probably seen TikTok videos with more budget than this film. But it’s playful and brisk, and what’s not to love about any movie that has baddies who go around with giant eyeball masks on their heads, just like the immortal experimental punk band the Residents?

• Tokyo Dragon Chef is available on digital platforms from 25 January.


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Priyanka Chopra Jonas On Racist Bullying In High School

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“My confidence was stripped.”

You know Priyanka Chopra Jonas.


Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

The actor’s first memoir, Unfinished, hits bookshelves on February 9, and apparently Chopra Jonas details the racist bullying she endured in an American high school — a topic she elaborated on in an interview with People.

“I took it very personally. Deep inside, it starts gnawing at you,” she admitted while discussing the bullying she experienced at an American high school at the age of 15.

The experience was bad enough that Chopra Jonas ultimately returned to India to finish her schooling.

“I went into a shell. I was like, ‘Don’t look at me. I just want to be invisible. My confidence was stripped. I’ve always considered myself a confident person, but I was very unsure of where I stood, of who I was.”

According to People, Chopra Jonas details in Unfinished how classmates in her Newton, Massachussetts high school would yell racist insults at her as she walked down the hall.

“I don’t even blame the city, honestly,” she ruminated. “I just think it was girls who, at that age, just want to say something that’ll hurt. Now, at the other side of 35, I can say that it probably comes from a place of them being insecure. But at that time, I took it very personally.”

After “[breaking] up with America,” Chopra Jonas found solace in returning to India. “I was so blessed that when I went back to India, I was surrounded by so much love and admiration for who I was. Going back to India healed me after that experience in high school.”

“In America, I was trying not to be different. Right? I was trying to fit in and I wanted to be invisible. When I went to India, I chose to be different.”

In sharing her experience, Chopra Jonas says that she hopes to inspire others to find themselves when faced with sadness or despair. “Insecurity becomes small as soon as you talk about it with someone you trust: A therapist, a counselor. I feel like a lot of people spend their time when they’re feeling dark [in isolation]. That’s the worst thing to do, is to feel sad alone.”

“Sadness is very seductive. It sucks you in and you want to just wallow in it because it feels comfortable and warm — and light is harsh sometimes. [But] you have to look at it, you squint. [The light is] a lot, but it gives you life. It gives you joy.

“We have the choice, most of the time, to step out of the darkness ourselves. The best way I’ve found of doing it is talking to people who care.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, visit stopbullying.gov for more information on what you can do to help yourself and others.

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