Monday, March 8

Focus: Asia

All about recent Asian movies

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...
Review: Bikeman /  ไบค์แมน ศักรินทร์ตูดหมึก (2018)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Bikeman / ไบค์แมน ศักรินทร์ตูดหมึก (2018)

What Prueksa Amaruji's Bikeman offers is a familiar reflection of third-world country's problem, where employment issues create the urban dream. University graduates have to wander off the hometown to compete with each other and find jobs in the country's capital (or the financial capital). Bikeman attempts to underline such an issue with lightweight exposition and a heightened sense of comedy—overdosed with slapstick and farce. At the center of this Thai blockbuster, Sakkarin (Pachara Chirathivat) will wake up early morning to boat across the lake of his provincial town before catching a train to Bangkok, where he claims to work in a high-profile bank. The truth is, he never works in a bank; he attempted a few times indeed to apply for a job in banks, but he never made it. Refusing to...
Review: EXIT / 엑시트 / Eksiteu (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: EXIT / 엑시트 / Eksiteu (2019)

In his directorial debut, Lee Sang-geun builds a solid survival actioner on the foundations laid by classic action flicks like The Towering Inferno, Die Hard and versatility of MacGyver. It's a familiar story about ordinary people striving to stay alive in such a dire situation. Then, Sang-geun injects tongue-to-cheek comedy and some awkward romance elements to spice up things. The result is a tonal mess that offers endless adrenaline rush and deadpan laughs. The protagonist is Yong-nam (Cho Jung-seok), a rock-climbing prodigy whose luck runs out after graduation. Unemployed and estranged from the rest of his family, Yong-nam insists on celebrating his mother's 70th birthday in a venue where his old crush, Eui-ju (Yoona), works. Soon, he finds himself a fish out of water when his prese...
Review: Weathering with You / 天気の子 / Tenki no Ko (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: Weathering with You / 天気の子 / Tenki no Ko (2019)

Reverberating the idyllic fantasy romance of Your Name that transcends time and space, Makoto Shinkai crafts another coming-of-age romance. If Your Name serves as the spiritual answer to 5 Centimeters per Second; his new animation, Weathering with You a.k.a. Tenki no Ko is undoubtedly the spiritual answer to his rain-soaking The Garden of Words. The parallels to Shinkai's works in this weather-bending romance are crystal clear. Weathering with You, strange as the title sounds, plays out with another Shinkai's wildest dream. The narrative dances in the rain from the very beginning making such a cold welcome to its protagonist. It follows a runaway, Hodaka (Kotaro Daigo), fleeing his island to neon-bathing Tokyo that has rained for days on end. Despair for living, he's sheltered and hire...
Review: The Divine Fury (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review: The Divine Fury (2019)

Midnight Runners' director, Kim Joo-hwan returns with a new blockbuster that reunites him with the Runners' star, Park Seo-joon. Combining the corniest elements of exorcism horror and comical action-hero tropes, The Divine Fury is a gothic action fantasy which immediately reminds us of Constantine minus the angelic apparitions. From spiritual imagery of Catholicism, priests chanting prayers in Latin to expel demons, to fistfight against demon-possessed people, you are up for an action-packed ride full of blood, holy waters and... campiness, nevertheless. The Divine Fury seems to seam unlikely components into one helluva narrative drive. The story roots on an enticingly crafted mythos of the Dark Bishop, a worshipper of the evil Holy Serpent. Dark Bishop corrupts problematic people and ...
Review Parasite (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review Parasite (2019)

Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s homecoming to Korean cinema following his respective international tenures, Snowpiercer and Okja, is a brilliantly crafted cinema experience, pushing forward the director’s renowned prowess in the art of narrative and his constant social justice rage to the border. It’s an uplifting yet bitter family tragicomedy blending a twist of home invasion trope with social commentary and stark thriller. Without any doubt, this is Joon-ho’s thick blood-and-flesh creation, switching genres effortlessly to bring awareness about the cause that the director cares about. (more…)
Review Miss & Mrs. Cops / Girl Cops, 걸캅스 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review Miss & Mrs. Cops / Girl Cops, 걸캅스 (2019)

Jung Da-won's Miss & Mrs. Cops boldly points out the recent drug rape cartel scandal in South Korea. If you're following recent news about the country's entertainment industry, you might learn that there's been a dire, organized sex scandal involving the industry moguls and even fan-darlings abusing women for sexual services, with drug-rape and non-consented sex video distribution. A series of investigation is currently ongoing since March 2019; but, most of the results show how male power operates and how easily women’s calls for justice are silenced, said the coalition of women’s rights groups. In bringing awareness about this issue, Da-won writes and directs an exhilarating buddy-cop comedy about two policewomen attempting to bust down the crooked industry even when all odds are a...
Review The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil / 악인전 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil / 악인전 (2019)

South Korean crime thriller once again blurs the line between good and evil in a hardcore manner. The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil goes style over substances in this unorthodox cat-and-mouse game involving a band of typically merciless Korean gangsters, a regimen of typically offensive Korean cops and a single, typically sinister serial killer dubbed as the devil. Lee Won-tae blends South Korean most celebrated cliches of the recent years and crafts this purely enjoyable joyride. (more…)
Review The Pool (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review The Pool (2019)

A couple is foolishly trapped in an abandoned 6-meter-deep pool... without water, without ladder, without any visible way out. From the premise, Ping Lumpraploeng's The Pool seems to offer a frustrating, claustrophobic thriller assembling the force of bad luck and the consequence of ignorance. It immediately reminds me to Open Water series (especially the second installment) where sheer stupidity and malaise jeopardize people's life. While it sounds nonsensical and exaggerating, some of its suspense might work even better if the movie does not give away most of the thrills so easily. (more…)
Review The Wandering Earth / 流浪地球 (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review The Wandering Earth / 流浪地球 (2019)

Dubbed as the first ever 'proper' Chinese interstellar blockbuster, Frant Gwo's The Wandering Earth flaunts more than just an ambitious spectacle; but, the entire industry's pride in orchestrating a cinematic milestone. Adapted from Cixin Liu's award-winning novella, this kind of "cancelling the apocalypse" (borrowing the term from Idris Elba's character in Pacific Rim) can only be a massive production or nothing at all. And, this adaptation opted to go the former way and, since then, it becomes a mega-hit. Before long, Netflix picked it up and The Wandering Earth really wanders to flaunt its extravagant ambitions. (more…)
Review It Comes / 来る (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review It Comes / 来る (2019)

Tetsuya Nakashima (Confession, The World of Kanako) has always been known as a visual extravagant with a flair for narrative overdrive. With a portfolio of bleak murder mysteries that always haunt long after the end of the movies, Mr. Nakashima now steps further into horror territory with It Comes (also known as Kuru), an adaptation of Ichi Sawamura novel, Bogiwan ga Kuru. Similar to his most notable works, even in his horror debut, his movie is outright dark, mysterious, visceral and demanding. At one point, this horror reminds me of the cult-making Korean horror, The Wailing; what makes it different is: it's campier and bigger in scale. Putting It Comes into a short, comprehensive synopsis is difficult because this horror is an extensive, long-winded opera comprising of many characte...
Review Friend Zone (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review Friend Zone (2019)

Friend Zone adopts an idea that has been too familiar that we almost take it for granted. A story of a guy who falls hard to a girl (vice versa) but ends up as friends, instead of lovers, is a tragedy since forever. Before the term was popularized by Joey Tribbiani in sitcom Friends, Edgar Linton has been friend-zoned by Catherine Earnshaw in Bronte's Wuthering Heights and, since then, we've heard a lot of similar stories or even get ourselves tangled in such stories. That does not refrain this new GDH romance from reminding us on how beautiful and sentimental this state can be. In Friend Zone, we meet Palm (Naphat Siangsomboon) and Gink (Pimchanok ‘Baifern’ Luevisadpaibul) at the center of the story. Since high school, Palm has got himself tangled in a complicated friend zone with Gin...
Review Fall in Love at First Kiss (2019)
Focus: Asia, Movie Review

Review Fall in Love at First Kiss (2019)

Frankie Chen’s Fall in Love at First Kiss (一吻定情) adds another entry to the list of Kaoru Tada’s manga, Itazura Na Kiss screen adaptations (which has spawned various television series in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan). Chen’s version takes a closer approach to the first Taiwanese incarnation, It Started with a Kiss (惡作劇之吻), especially by using the established character names and settings. While the plot might sound eerie and unhealthy in deeper observation, the movie’s sugarcoating—with bubble-gum visuals and comical characters—can, at times, divert the attention to a distant lesson. (more…)

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