The Scorpion King (1992)

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No, not that Scorpion King. Erase the horrifying CGI amalgam of The Rock’s head on a scorpion’s body and the still-running franchise that it became from mind. This Scorpion King is way more interesting to watch. First glimpsed by a school kid through a window at night, he’s ever-ready to spring to the defence of his disabled father with his superlative martial skills and distinctive scorpion-style moves. Hero material. Except his father is a lecherous slave trader and the … (read more)

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Blood of Wolves (2018)

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You only have to do a little digging to come to the understanding that the origins and history of the yakuza aren’t necessarily written in stone. Sources conflict about how they began – as ronin or samurai family retainers, or special police formed to fight organised crime – but most sources can agree that regardless of where they started, their main characteristics involved crime, violence, and their own specific set of codes and rules.

Blood of Wolves maintains this essence … (read more)

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Shoplifters (2018)

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Imagine, if you will, a movie where nothing much happens. Now, imagine being captivated by it. Now imagine going away feeling like you just witnessed some of the best, most wonderful cinema you’ve seen in a while. A long while. That feeling? That’s the Kore-eda effect.

Okay, fine, it’s not like Hirokazu Kore-eda is the only director who has the deftness and sensitivity to take the mundane and make it watchable without going over the edge into sentimentality and melodrama, … (read more)

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The Third Murder (2017)

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You can call Hirokazu Kore-eda a lot of things: pretentious, navel-gazing, somnolent, repetitive, poetical and astute is just a handful. “Genre master” is most definitely not among them. Regardless of this minor hurdle, Kore-eda dips his toes into Lumet territory for his latest, The Third Murder. Even if you can conjure a marriage between Kore-eda’s signature deliberate, piercing, languid aesthetic and the conventional beats demanded of a murder mystery you wouldn’t be able to entirely capture the essence of … (read more)

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The Crimes That Bind (2018)

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(Ed: some might consider the following review to have some small spoilers. If you’re worried about that, go and catch it at the Japanese Film Festival and then come back and read our review!)

The mundane routine of actual police work has never been something that takes front and centre stage on our screens. From the days of the gumshoe detective, to the Lethal Weapons, to Miami Vice and NYPDCSINCIS, being a detective and hunting killers is exciting, dangerous, … (read more)

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Paradox (2017)

What a curious sort-of-series this is. Way back in 2005 SPL was heralded as a return to hard-hitting Hong Kong urban action, a description that has stood the test of time. After a ten year hiatus, SPL II: A Time for Consequences remixed the recipe with some returning cast members as different characters in a completely new story, with the notable fusion of Thai star Tony Jaa into a Hong Kong production with great results. Now we have Paradox — … (read more)

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Believer (2018)

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I have said previously that film remakes are often problematic. When I first heard that Johnnie To’s crime drama Drug War (2012) was to be remade as a South Korean production, I’ll admit it wasn’t joyous news (at least it stopped Hollywood from turning it into a Bourne movie). But a good trailer and a strong cast gave me some hope. The latter wasn’t misplaced and Believer is actually an excellent crime movie. Director Lee Hae-yeong has done a great … (read more)

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Your Name (2016)

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Stunning skyscapes. The beauty in everyday things and moments. Close ups of mobile phones. The contrast between light and shade. Separation, longing, regret. Yep, it’s a Makoto Shinkai movie.

Your Name concerns the growing relationship between high schoolers Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi), a girl from a lakeside township and Taki (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a boy from bustling Tokyo. The catch is, they have never met. Each has what they first believe is a dream, walking a mile in the other’s shoes — … (read more)

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