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Court (2014)

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Court

My first film at this year’s Sydney Film Festival was Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court, an Indian film that packs a great deal of social commentary — with an intelligent, understated touch — into a courtroom drama.

Narayan Kamble (played by Vira Sathidar) is an ageing folk singer in Mumbai who divides his time between teaching in the surrounding cities and performing fiery protest songs on makeshift stages with a troupe of musicians. As the film opens, we see one such … (read more)

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When Marnie Was There (2014)

When Marnie Was There


Studio Ghibli’s latest animated feature, When Marnie Was There, is released in cinemas across Australia on the 14th of May, 2015. See cinema websites for screening details.

Animator and director Hiromasa Yonebayashi came to prominence in 2010 when he directed Arrietty for Studio Ghibli, becoming (at 37) the youngest director of a Ghibli feature film. He’s worked with Ghibli for a lot longer though: Wikipedia lists him as an animator on Princess Mononoke in 1997 and a host of … (read more)

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Snow on the Blades (2014)

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Snow on the Blades (Poster)

Snow on the Blades is a contemplative, elegant drama set at the end of Japan’s feudal era, spanning the decline of the Tokugawa shogunate in the 1860s and the dawning of the Meiji period thereafter.

The story follows one Shimura Kingo (Kiichi Nakai), a young man whose family are samurai in service to Ii Naosuke, chief minister to the Shogun. A master swordsman, he has recently married and has been elevated to the position of chief bodyguard to the minister, … (read more)

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Kung Fu Jungle (2014)

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Kung Fu Jungle

Donnie Yen returns to the big screen in Kung Fu Jungle, in the well-worn guise of a skilled martial artist brought low, doggedly chasing down a brilliant but broken adversary. Not that he’s been away for long; arguably the last big action star standing from Hong Kong’s golden years, he’s been working harder than ever, turning in a couple of huge films every year since the early 2000s, often as action choreographer as well.

In this film, director Teddy … (read more)

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The Terror, Live (2013)

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The Terror, Live

The Terror, Live is a nail-biter of a thriller that screened in South Korea about a year ago, managing five million domestic tickets sold — a pretty decent showing given that it opened against Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (which set domestic opening records, and eventually ended up at 9.3M admissions). Terror is a very different film, though: recalling Hollywood “maniac on a phone” films of yesteryear (think Phone Booth, or perhaps even Speed), it sets almost the entire film … (read more)

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The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow (2014)

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

The last couple of animated films I’ve seen from Korea have been Yeon Sang-ho’s powerful, perhaps even brutal films The King of Pigs and The Fake, both of which use the medium in a very distinctive style to present and criticise aspects of Korean society. This film, The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is no less confident a feature debut for director Jang Hyung-yun, but it is much lighter fare, focusing as it does on romance, heartache, geostationary orbits … (read more)

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The Wrath of Vajra (2013)

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The Wrath of Vajra

Slick-looking and super-masculine, The Wrath of Vajra feels like a “fight movie” from a much earlier time, supplemented with mostly modern production and cinematography. A time when men were men and fought each other for reasons that were delivered in an early barrage of impenetrable exposition, getting it over with at the start so that we can get on with the kicks and punches.

The setting is the 1940s, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the Japanese are finding that … (read more)

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The Protector 2 (2013)

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The Protector 2

The news arrived last week that celebrated Thai action choreographer Panna Rittikrai has passed away, at the far too young age of 53. He had been the driving force behind Thailand’s new wave of action movies, touched off by his work with his student Tony Jaa in 2003’s Ong Bak. Amidst a cinematic sea of elaborate fantasy wirework, CGI-enhanced stunts and elaborate, unrealistic weaponry, Panna’s films brought a grounding in reality back to modern action cinema: hard-hitting Muay Thai, … (read more)

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