Friday, January 22

Focus: Asia

All about recent Asian movies

Review: Wet Season (2019) – Luang Prabang Film Festival 2020
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Wet Season (2019) – Luang Prabang Film Festival 2020

Back from the Camera d'Or 2013 winner, Ilo Ilo, Singaporean director, Anthony Chen returns with a similarly bittersweet, yet forgivable melodrama which picks on contemporary problem in Singapore in Wet Season. Set during the soaking monsoon season that drenches almost mercilessly, Chen puts forward his observations of Singapore's blindspots and weaves it into the story of a lonesome teacher and an abandoned teenager. Reuniting his previous film's leads, Yeo Yann Yann and Koh Jia Ler, the narrative observes their respective loneliness before finding a little sunshine in each other amidst the rainy days. (more…)
Review: The Long Walk (2019) – Luang Prabang Film Festival 2020
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The Long Walk (2019) – Luang Prabang Film Festival 2020

Laotian first and only female director, Mattie Do, rewards those who patiently follows the tangled story in her latest feature, The Long Walk, written by her frequent collaborator, Christopher Larsen. Her film dives deep into a rural Laos village, intertwines a chilling yet barely scary ghost story with time-travel tropes, and presents it with an art-house sensitivity. The connection between one element and the others isn't always bleak and the whole plot demands commitment as well as full, undivided attention; but, when the dots are connected, the rewards paid off. (more…)
Review: Mulan (2020)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Mulan (2020)

Disney's live-action adaptation of Mulan is probably the boldest move the studio has taken in the recent years. Putting forward representation in the production by casting actors of Chinese descent (a mix of those familiar faces to mainstream American viewers and some fresh faces from the Mainland) with Chinese-born Liu Yifei portraying the titular character suggests the Mouse House' commitment for diversity (in the brink of fight against whitewashing in Hollywood). While seeking after an Asian director to no avail, New Zealander Niki Caro (Whale Rider and McFarland, USA) lands the job making her the second female director to helm a Disney movie (after Ava DuVernay with A Wrinkle of Time). In a critical and controversial move, Disney released it as an on-demand perk in their streaming ser...
Review: The Call / 콜 (2020)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The Call / 콜 (2020)

There's a mysterious phone that can connect people from different time and space. Will it do more good than harm? Or otherwise? That would become the underlying questions posed by writer-director, Lee Chung-hyun, in his thriller, The Call, adaptation of a 2011 Puerto Rican-British movie, The Caller. To provide hints for the answers, he pits Park Shin-hye (recently excels in #Alive) against Jeon Jong-seo (the breakthrough star of Lee Chang-dong's Burning) in a vengeful, almost sophisticated battle that intertwines two different timelines in the process. (more…)
Review: Cleaners (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Cleaners (2019)

Glenn Barit makes a visually ambitious anthology about the life of high schoolers in a provincial Filipino town in Cleaners. Revolving around a group of classmates in a Catholic high school, the narrative branches out into 4 chapters—each centers around different teen angsts—with a prologue and an epilogue that converge the stories together. The nostalgic atmosphere thickens as the narrative begins observing relatable high school moments—from extracurricular ambition, innocent romance, to identity crisis—acted by non-actor performers adding unforeseeable authenticity to the already grounded stories. (more…)
Review: Just 6.5 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Just 6.5 (2019)

Peyman Moaadi (A Separation, The Night Of) stars alongside Navid Muhammadzadeh (Life and a Day) in this Iranian crime story about drug trades and the harrowing law that follows in Just 6.5 by Saeed Roustayi. Starting out with a fast-paced, neatly choreographed alley chase and concluding with a bone-chilling, man-cry ordeal, Roustayi's clear-cut action thriller with open-ended morality doesn't want to give peace in the audiences' mind—with bitter, almost sympathetic feeling lingers after almost every important conclusion in this story. With slick set pieces that draw comparisons to Hollywood's finest ones blended in with close observations of Iranian law system, making a referential gesture to political crime movie like Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, this is the kind of crime movie that won'...
Review: John Denver Trending (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: John Denver Trending (2019)

When the internet was first introduced in the Philippines in 1994, nobody would have thought that, at least two decades later, its widespread impact would be massive and life-changing. Nobody would have imagined that an ordinary teenager from a farming village in a rural provincial area would become a nationwide, online sensation overnight. Everything about him becomes a trending topic; even people would want the president to know about him—but not for any good reason, any good cause, or any good aftermath. (more…)
Review: Roh / Soul (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Roh / Soul (2019)

Unlike most horrors from the regions, Malaysia's submission for the 93rd Academy Awards, Roh (a.k.a. Soul), is a kind of horror that favor creeping atmosphere and a storm of uncertainty to deliver the scare. It's only the second film by Kuman Pictures—an indie studio focusing on low-budget horror—and the directorial debut for Emir Ezwan (previously known as visual effect supervisor for One Two Jaga). However, this folk horror shows prominent composure and confidence in delivering an unlikely horror story that effectively works on several layers at once. (more…)
Review: Evil Eye (2020)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Evil Eye (2020)

Sarita Choudhury (from the arthouse hit, Mississippi Masala) and Sunita Mani (supporting star in the recently cancelled GLOW) star in a hybrid of South Asian and Hollywood horror, Evil Eye. Based on Madhuri Shekar's Audible original of the same title, the story chronicles the harsh conflict between a first generation Indian immigrant in America and the American-born second generation within a horror frame. In between superstition, cultural clash, and past trauma, the intercontinental horror has just enough odds to be heavily misguiding for unfamiliar audiences. Related Post: Review: The Lie (2020) We've seen it before and we've seen it again; the problem with American-born immigrants from Eastern culture has always been with the cultural clash. The older generation, however liberal,...
Review: #Alive / #살아있다 / #Saraitda (2020)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: #Alive / #살아있다 / #Saraitda (2020)

From the modern-day outbreak in Train to Busan with the prequel, Seoul Station, and the sequel, Peninsula (slated for 2020 release) to the period horror taking place in Joseon era as in Netflix's series, Kingdom, or Rampant, zombie apocalypse suddenly comes in waves in South Korean blockbuster scene.This time, it's Yoo Ah-in's (Burning) turn to star in an almost-claustrophobic zombie survival movie, #Alive. He portrays Jun-u, an eccentric gamer who finds himself trapped inside his family's apartment when a mysterious disease rapidly infects people around his neighborhood in Seoul uptown. (more…)
Review: Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013)

Back in 2013, director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit (Happy Old Year, Die Tomorrow) experimented with a unique narrative quest—a slice-of-life drama of an unusual source. Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy is the product, based on 410 consecutive tweets from a Thai teenager known as Mary Malony a.k.a. @marylony (still active tweeting from 2009 until today, with total followers around 554K). Every single tweet, mostly in the Thai language, appears on-screen via title-card every minute or so guiding us through the daily life of Mary (Patcha Poonpiriya), which might turn bizarre in one moment and banal at another. (more…)
Review: Happy Old Year / ฮาวทูทิ้ง (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Happy Old Year / ฮาวทูทิ้ง (2019)

Thai director, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, offers an opposite view to Japanese organizing guru, Marie Kondo's tidying-up game with a sentimental drama, Happy Old Year. When Kondo encourages people to declutter and organize their houses by throwing out stuff that no longer sparks joy, Nawapol argues that Kondo's method is not always the case. Some people hold some memories dearer than some other people; and, sometimes, memories are knotted to specific things that belong to the past, even when they do not spark joy anymore. Happy Old Year observes 'old stuff' — reminiscents of the past — as a container of memories. Oftentimes, people forget people or moment because there's barely physical totem to hold on. This view makes Kondo's credo looks too pragmatic; and, at the same times, gives t...
Review: Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 / 82년생 김지영 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 / 82년생 김지영 (2019)

It’s a myopic world we live in. Kim Ji-young, Born 1982, adapted from a 2016 book of the same title by Cho Nam-ju, observes how the world has become one. The story unravels how deep-rooted patriarchal culture has somehow blurred our visions with its inherent threat. In South Korea, where the story takes place, the book has stirred up some controversies due to its direct portrayal of the explicit sexism in the country; but, that doesn't stop director Kim Do-young from adapting it into the screen and presenting the story as it is. Jung Yu-mi portrays the titular character, Kim Ji-young, a housewife struggling with her maternal routine. Her story is never a linear one; there's barely a plot that binds it all together. When she married her husband (Gong Yoo, Train to Busan) and eventually...
Review: The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos / 나쁜 녀석들: 더 무비 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos / 나쁜 녀석들: 더 무비 (2019)

From the exhilarating Extreme Jobs, the hard-boiled The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil, to the buoyant Miss & Mrs. Cops, recent South Korean blockbusters love to see cops defying the procedure and delving into the grey area to get their job done. Son Yong-ho's The Bad Guys: Reign of Chaos attempts to capture the zeitgeist and reuse the working formula to score another hit. With cartoonish characters and an over-the-top presentation, the end-product feels like a combination of many other hits. Adapted from the 2014 TV series, Bad Guys, you should not find it surprising that the premise is Suicide Squad-sy. Kim Sang-joong reprises his role in the series as Oh Gu-tak, an ambitious detective who will use any means necessary to catch criminals, even when it ambiguously blurs his moral lin...
BALINALE Review: Burning /  버닝 / Beoning (2018)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

BALINALE Review: Burning / 버닝 / Beoning (2018)

Lee Chang-dong's Burning challenges audiences with a mesmerizing narrative, which feels surreal and actual. At times, it might resemble a murky thriller or simply a baffling mystery; at some other times, it transcends the ordinary romance and documents the country's inherent poverty issues. The narrative never settles in one trajectory; but, that might possibly be the movie's luxurious vehicle to become one of the most absorbing movies in recent history. Loosely adapted from Haruki Murakami's short story, Barn Burning, Chang-dong surprisingly treats the movie like a visual breakdown of Murakami's style. The detail of it might be a story for another time. Burning depicts Murakamian lonely people adeptly in a story that feels dreary, sensual, and jazzy at the same time. The narrative tre...

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