SHOPLIFTERS (FILM REVIEW)

If ever there was an ensemble movie where everyone pulled their weight, this would be it. Shoplifters is a rare example combining flawless cast chemistry with expert role distribution. And between them, a moving story unfolds. Director, writer and editor Hirokazu Kore-eda steals the heart of audiences stealthily, with vignettes drifting lazily along offering slice-of-life…

DANUR 2: MADDAH (FILM REVIEW)

Horror films. We walk in knowing what to expect. Jump scares, horrifying ghouls, the occasional blood or gore, creepy sets, all shrouded in dim lighting and anticipatory soundtrack. And Danur 2: Maddah checks these boxes, if almost a little too hastily. Amidst all the frantic action in the film, it seems that Director Awi Suryadi…

BURNING (FILM REVIEW)

In this world, there is Little Hunger and Great Hunger. Little Hunger is when someone is physically hungry. And Great Hunger is when a person yearns for the bigger answers, like the meaning of life, shares Haemi (Jun Jong-Seo), the female protagonist of Burning. Director Lee Chang-dong is renowned for tackling the Great Hunger in…

I KILL GIANTS (FILM REVIEW)

“I find Giants. I hunt Giants. I. Kill. Giants.” And there summises the objective of our little heroine, Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe). The girl is a little of an outcast at school, visually represented by a headband with bunny ears (to better connect with her spirit animal) and behaviorally with her sharp retorts and solo…

UNSANE (FILM REVIEW)

An expert at the human condition, Steven Soderbergh launches a new psychological thriller Unsane – shot in secret in 2017 – and surprises with a gritty, experimental tale that challenges the mental faculties of both characters and audience alike. Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) is the company’s new data analyst. New to the city, she digs…

THE THIRD EYE / MATA BATIN (FILM REVIEW)

While 2017 was a fast crop year for Indonesian horror, one can expect duds as well as hits in the buffet mix from our southern neighbour. The Third Eye sits somewhere in between. It’s a project with ambitious goals – as one can certainly tell from its inspiration from western horror classics, but that is…

THE PRINCESS AND THE MATCHMAKER (FILM REVIEW)

A cursed princess holds the key to reversing a drought situation for her country in the Joseon era. Or so the royal diviner says. Using the Korean art of forecasting from the “4 pillars” created by a person’s birthdate – not unlike the Chinese bazi – introducing a marriage will alter the elements and return…

NET I DIE (FILM REVIEW)

In Net I Die, directors Preedee Veeratum and Nuttachai Jiraanont wanted to highlight the ills of social media fame, by creating a revenge tale emerging after the death of a “net idol” – an online influencer. What comes out instead, is a cardboard cliche of a story, filled with simple-minded characters and desperate post-production efforts….

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (FILM REVIEW)

The Strangers in 2008 created a new angle in home invasion horror, creating killers that not only toyed with their victims, but also seemingly for no apparent reason. Mimicking the “mindless” massacre of psychopaths such as Charles Manson, the un-scrubbable trauma was made real and available to the masses with Bryan Bertino’s creepy franchise. It…

KEYS TO THE HEART (FILM REVIEW)

Lee Byung-Hun has carved a name for himself inhabiting steely characters with tortured pasts. In Keys to the Heart, he reprises this formula as a down-and-out boxer, who rediscovers family relations with his estranged mum and autistic brother. South Korea’s heartwarming version of Rain Man takes the same cues from the iconic classic, featuring tropes…

SURVIVAL FAMILY (FILM REVIEW)

Yoshiyuki Suzuki (Fumiyo Kohinata) returns home after a day’s work at the office. His wife Mitsue (Eri Fukatsu) struggles to fillet a fish, while teenage daughter Yui (Wakan Aoi) princesses about the “gross” produce from her grandfather Shigeomi Sasaki (Akira Emoto). His son Kenji (Yuki Izumisawa) returns home and heads straight to the room, ignoring…

RED SPARROW (FILM REVIEW)

Ah, Jennifer “I’ve-got-range” Lawrence. Hers is the name that launches a thousand roles, but maybe that brand is starting to slip with over-exposure. Forbes’ highest paid actress in 2015 and 2016 lost her place last year to Emma Stone – a sign that maybe the starlet’s reign is over? So Red Sparrow would be like…

MARROWBONE (FILM REVIEW)

In a crumbling old house, at the top of the stairs, a mother (Nicola Harrison) draws a line in the dusty floor and announces, “our story starts here”. As her four children step over the boundary, the audience also gets pulled into a narrative that’s inventive and original, but also bewildering and occasionally frustrating. Former…

A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT (FILM REVIEW)

For those who don’t know, he sui (festive) films are celebratory movies which pop up during the lunar new year period. They have become a precursor staple to augur the holidays, much like the clanging songs, red packets and mountains of tangerines, but have noticeably waned over the years in popularity. In a way, these…

WINCHESTER (FILM REVIEW)

This show is proof that no actor is infallible, no matter how great their acting chops might be. Winchester is the story of why the eccentric Sarah Winchester built one of the America’s most famous houses. Helen Mirren plays the grieving widow and purported mentally-unsound heiress to the Winchester firearm empire. Eager to unseat her…

I, TONYA (FILM REVIEW)

It’s true. Our society is hardly forgiving towards those who makes mistakes. And quick to condemn at that. Tonya Harding was an Olympic figure skater, who in a 1991 competition, did a triple axel on the ice. Not was she the first American to ever do so, even after a quarter of a century, only…

YOUTH (FILM REVIEW)

By placing Youth in the timeline of the Cultural Revolution, it’s inevitable some pundits will expect a form of commentary or advocacy from the film, especially when it’s from a Mainland Chinese director. From the cushy seat of a critic, one should think nothing of asking a native director to turn entertainment into mouthpiece against…

ALONG WITH THE GODS: THE TWO WORLDS

This movie will make you want to be a better person. And entertain you while it’s at it. Most religious tenets include one of judgment in the afterlife. Along with the Gods brings a noble firefighter Kim Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun) into Korean purgatory, having died on duty while saving a girl. For having led an…

SATAN’S SLAVES (FILM REVIEW)

The 70s and 80s is having a great run in entertainment these days. From Stranger Things and Dark, to Ouija and It, the period serves itself well in the horror genre, most notably because there’s no mobile phones to the rescue. Satan’s Slave is a remake of Sisworo Gautama Putra’s 1980 film of the same…

LEGEND OF THE DEMON CAT (FILM REVIEW)

When you have the venerable Chen Kaige at the helm, you can expect lush visuals that are hard to ignore. Colours, textures, movement, all come together in an airy dance that is pure foreplay to the eyes. CGI fever has overtaken many modern films in China, no doubt due to the rising younger audience who…

PITCH PERFECT 3 (FILM REVIEW)

Last call Pitches. This reviewer says: we can hope. In the latest installment, the girls may have left their textbooks, but the scriptwriters seemed to have returned to theirs. Pitch Perfect 3 sees the harmonising group Bella take on the biggest stage ever – real life. Things after college is note-acibly not as glamorous, and…

THE THOUSAND FACES OF DUNJIA (FILM REVIEW)

There are a few stalwarts in the Hong Kong movie industry, and two of them are in this film. Tsui Hark’s hand in creating commercial cinema during the “Golden Age” is legendary. Both entertaining and original, his classics such as A Better Tomorrow, A Chinese Ghost Story and Green Snake have all been milestones of…

A TAXI DRIVER (FILM REVIEW)

Other than in South Korea, and for people in that region during May 1980, not many may have known about the Gwangju Uprising, where hundreds, and some witnesses suggest thousands, of civilians were massacred during demonstrations against a military coup. This state secret back then would have gone undocumented, if not for Jürgen Hinzpeter, a…

THE PROMISE (FILM REVIEW)

The 47-storey scalloped architectural project that is Sathorn Tower is like the Titanic. It was to be the tallest and most luxurious of buildings in Bangkok, commanding priceless views from its prime position. But Thailand’s financial crash in 1997, nicknamed the Tom Yum Goong Crisis, sunk the development and everything was brought to an abrupt…

CHINA’S VAN GOGHS (FILM REVIEW)

Made in China. The very line elicits derogatory reactions – cheap, fake, inferior. In the village of Dafen in the city of Shenzhen, one can say this rings true. In 1989, a Hong Kong businessman began turning hamlet into horde, with his peasants-turned-oil painters replicating masterpieces of the Western world for sale. He started with…

GEOSTORM (FILM REVIEW)

The worrying trend of climate change has provided fodder for big movies these last few years. From documentaries to epic disaster movies, the topic is a compelling one as we throw out many “what if” scenarios. Geostorm is the latest entry that places us in the future of a possible scenario, where we use tech…

MIDNIGHT RUNNERS (FILM REVIEW)

South Korea has been dishing out finely polished film productions in recent years, going big-scale from sets to budgets. It’s good to see someone in Asia carrying the torch in this region, as other giants like Hong Kong, China and India struggle to catch the wind in their filmmaking sails. Midnight Runners is South Korea’s…

KODOMO TSUKAI AKA INNOCENT CURSE (FILM REVIEW)

Children, can be creepy. With their beguiling ways and cherubic faces, they intensify horror when gurgle becomes growl and smile becomes sneer. This formula has kept classics going – think Children of the Corn or The Omen – and in Japan, director Takashi Shimiau has been terrifying audience with Toshio, the mewling boy from Juon….

THE TAG-ALONG 2 (FILM REVIEW)

It won awards for the two leads and topping The Conjuring, was also the highest grossing horror film in a decade for Taiwan. So it’s not surprising that the 2015 The Tag-Along spawns a sequel from director Cheng Wei Hao. The Tag Along 2 is more of the familiar, following the predecessor’s key devices but…

ZOMBIE FIGHTERS (FILM REVIEW)

There’s a slew of disposable films coming out these days. They tend to be offsprings from a successful title or copycat formula, and usually ends up a poorer cousin of the original. Zombie Fighters is director Poj Arnon’s latest installment and to reference the earlier metaphor, this would be a one-ply – it’s physically there…