ARCTIC (FILM REVIEW)

Filled with more snow than script, Joe Penna’s Arctic strips the survival film genre to its bare essentials, but bolstering that skeleton with a rich performance from its main character. Danish Mads Mikkelsen gives his all in his role as Overgard, a pilot stranded in the arctic region after a crash. Presumably. I say that…

FIVE FEET APART (FILM REVIEW)

It’s an almost unshakeable formula – a doomed romance featuring a character with a chronic disease is sure to turn the taps on. So, I guess if having one character doomed to die makes viewers bawl, imagine two! In the line of terminal romance tear-fests like A Walk to Remember, Midnight Sun, and (most similarly)…

EXTREME JOB (FILM REVIEW)

It felt like somebody’s birthday party. Plus there’s fried chicken. Between the snacks crackling and the people chuckling, the atmosphere at the premiere was buzzing with cheer. I haven’t witnessed such an easy sense of mirth at a screening for years now, no doubt helped by the continuous rain of laughter at the antics onscreen….

VIRAL (FILM REVIEW)

Viral is really an updated version of The Ring, but minus the finesse and scares. In the midst of playing an augmented game called Ghost Hunt, Tang (Ploy Sornarin) captures a spirit photo and excitedly shares it with her friends. One by one, they start seeing the female ghost in their environment. Supposedly. The thing…

MOJIN: THE WORM VALLEY (FILM REVIEW)

I found it mildly amusing that the director’s name (Fei Xing) can literally be translated to “do not cross here”, because quite frankly, it’s almost like a warning to his production. The Mojin franchise is based on the bestselling novels of Zhang Muye, about the colourful adventures of three tomb robbers that seek out legendary…

BURIED ALIVE (SUZZANNA: BERNAPAS DALAM KUBUR) (FILM REVIEW)

Asian spirits frighten because their appearances always allude to a terrifying cause of death. In the case of the sundel bolong from Javanese folklore, it is a woman with long flowing hair which covers a bloody hole in her back. It is believed that they were those who got pregnant out of wedlock, and died…

KUNG FU MONSTER (FILM REVIEW)

Remember that old saying about cooks and broth? Kung Fu Monster is an excellent demonstration of this proverb. Rife with a cast that vies for screen time, the script trips over itself with its littering of superfluous side comments. Assembling a motley of knavish characters, the effect becomes even worse, as they throw liners that…

THE DEVIL FISH (FILM REVIEW)

Urban legends have a way of getting under our skin, primarily because they draw their horror from the familiar. Shared over lunch or gone viral on social media, these modern lore stay in limbo – suspended between reality and the supernatural, as people debate their authenticity. Like the popular Tag-Along franchise, The Devil Fish is…

INTIMATE STRANGERS (FILM REVIEW)

The smartphone changed our lives forever. And as a character remarks in Intimate Strangers, it’s like a black box of its owner, full of messages, emails and media they’ve collected. So is it any surprise that the content within might shock some of our closest friends or loved ones? An adaptation from the 2016 Italian…

THE ROPE CURSE (FILM REVIEW)

A suicide is tragic enough, but there’s something extra about the image of a hanging body that never fails to chill one to the bone. So it’s not surprising that in parts of Fujian and Taiwan, that a ritual has been created to combat the horror of a person hanging by choice. It is given…

HELLO, MRS. MONEY (FILM REVIEW)

It’s got the twisted mishaps of Hangover, the misdemeanor of Ted, and just a touch of that Crazy Rich Asian OTT display – except all wrapped up and tied with a Mainland Chinese bow on top. Hello, Mrs Money is a non-stop madcap riot, milking each unfortunate scenario made by bad decisions. And given how…

HELL FEST (FILM REVIEW)

The film gets one thing right – the sets. Otherwise, Hell Fest is really Halloween (including a very Michael Myers killer) without the gumption, impact or style. Horror films are not known for character development. But Hell Fest tests the boundaries of how much they can take with a crew of horror-film cliches. There’s the…

DOWN A DARK HALL (FILM REVIEW)

The movie establishes itself quickly. Angsty female lead. Gothic mansion. The classic “that area is out of bounds” line. 20 minutes in, you’ll find that Down A Dark Hall has a familiar tone to it. The way it introduces the characters, their relationships, some snappy cliches, and a painfully coerced romantic storyline – you have…

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…

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…