Reviews by Country
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Indonesian/Japanese co-production Killers screened at the 2014 Sydney Film Festival in the Freak Me Out program, which is exactly the right place for it. Programmer Richard Kuipers said in his intro for the screening that their intention for Freak Me Out is to show films that sit at the extreme ends of genre cinema, from horror spectaculars heaving with gristle and gore to the weirder side of arthouse. He suggested that Killers could be a worthy entry on both fronts, … (read more)
By way of full disclosure: When Overheard 3 arrived in Australian cinemas and distributor Magnum Films were kind enough to send me a ticket for review, I was worried. I hadn’t seen the first two films, and this is generally a recipe for incomprehensibility as far as the third is concerned. I saw the first installment on iTunes as prep, and then discovered that I needn’t have worried: writer/director duo Alan Mak and Felix Chong have crafted a series of … (read more)