Blog Archives

Joint Security Area (2000)

I had wanted to see Joint Security Area for a long time. Its incredible box office success in Korea stamped it as something worth tracking down, especially as the previous box office title holder was the engrossing North-South action flick Shiri. I was delighted when I got the news that JSA was screening at MIFF 2001. I knew I was going to like this film.

Turns out, I loved it.

That is, if “love” is a term that can … (read more)

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Dark Water (2002)

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Hideo Nakata strikes again with this sodden chiller which had me nearly crawling over the back of the seat to get away from it. Less berserk than Ring and sharing some plot points, but eventually just as creepy and certainly more moving as a mother strives to keep her daughter safe from her ex-husband and that persistent leak in the ceiling.… (read more)

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Volcano High (2001)

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I still haven’t got my breath back from the first Melbourne International Film Festival screening of the Korean High School fu flick Volcano High, but am already well and truly prepared to announce it as the coolest film for 2002.

Volcano High is just about ordinary high school stuff — liking a girl, hating your teachers, joining a sports club, fighting the bully — but everyone is actually a secret kung fu master of some kind. The plot is … (read more)

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Avalon (2001)

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According to Mamoru Oshii, the future is sepia. And Polish.

That’s the look of Avalon, Oshii’s first live-action film (you know him best from his anime Ghost in the Shell). Shot in Poland, with Polish actors, Avalon evokes an Eastern Bloc future in which life seems rationed. Technology is archaic; LCD monitors never happened. An underground virtual reality game called Avalon is the only escape, and heroine Ash (Malgorzata Foremniak) is the best player — that is, until a … (read more)

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Kai Doh Maru (2001)

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From the opening frames it is clear that Kaidohmaru is an anime of distinction; it begins with a flashback told in scratchy black and white art and almost primitive animation. It takes a gamble with the viewer’s attention, and shows that the animators are willing to create their own style. If there is such a thing as arthouse anime, this is it.

When the obligatory “Five Years Later” title comes up and the real art kicks in, we are still … (read more)

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Japanese Story (2003)

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Japanese Story has been frustrating critics from one end of Australia to the other; not because it’s a bad film, indeed, quite the reverse, but because it is almost impossible to actually discuss what the film is about without opening up a whole billabong of spoilers. This will be one such review.

I caught the film on the opening night of MIFF on a very rainy night in Melbourne in July; being transported to the red heat of Western Australia … (read more)

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Throw Down (2004)

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Johnnie To is ever the genre-shifting shapechanger. You can’t get a hold on him; just when you think you’ve got a firm grasp on his style, he jinks around, unhooks your hold and throws you back to the mat. I mean that in a good way.

Throw Down sees To partially back in the quirky territory of previous Milkway Image productions like The Odd One Dies and Too Many Ways To Be Number One, but in a more good-hearted … (read more)

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Monkey (1978)

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MONKEY! was a Japanese television series made from 1978 to 1980, based on the Chinese classic Journey to the West by Wu Ch’eng-en. When it hit here in Oz it was a pretty big deal. It blew Doctor Who clean outta the water; hell, it was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of my childhood (except without the endless pizza product placement or the oversized terrapins). You’d race home from school, dump the bag on the cat, leave off fighting with … (read more)

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