May 5, 2015

Seven Pounds (Gabriele Muccino, 2008)

WHAT IT IS: An engineer, haunted by the memory of an unforgivable past act, tries to earn his redemption by helping people in need. HOW IT IS: After 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, Smith and Muccino team up for another high-concept drama, this time structured as a mystery. Although sporting an interesting premise, Seven Pounds fails to deliver in part […]
January 30, 2015

Honeymoon (Leigh Janiak, 2014)

Paul and Bea, a newlywed couple, vacation at the bride’s family cabin for their honeymoon. But, even though the chosen setting is remote and bucolic, strange happenings cast a shadow on the freshly minted couple.  What’s most impressive (and refreshing) with Honeymoon is the director’s perspective. Without any spoilers, the big reveal has a lot to do with the filmmaker’s […]
January 30, 2015

Live (Noboru Iguchi, 2014)

In Live, a young Japanese man is forced to participate in a murderous race to save his mother, fighting against similar victims hoping to save their loved ones, a novel relating the same premise as his only guide. Even stranger, the novel’s principal character has his name. Now I haven’t had the change to see Dead Sushi (Noboru Iguchi, 2012) […]


April 2, 2014

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)

A big point of contention with historical films on slavery (or The Black Experience, as it’s sometimes naively called) is the way Hollywood films miss the mark on communicating that experience to a mainstream global audience. These movies usually revolve around African or African Diaspora characters and their history between the start of the slave trade in the 16th century to the […]
March 29, 2010

Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike, 2007)

WHAT IT IS: In a Far-East treasure town, two rival clans clash in a quest for gold. A strange gunman comes to town and plays both sides against each other. His agenda is unknown. HOW IT IS: Produced by Quentin Tarantino, Miike’s tribute to spaghetti western and samurai films is much more than a collage of film homages. By choosing […]
March 26, 2010

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Tom Tykwer, 2006)

WHAT IT IS: Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born destitute, has the most gifted olfactory sense ever bestowed on a human being. He yearns to learn how to distill all smells, including a woman’s. HOW IT IS: Twyker’s Perfume is strange but mesmerizing, like a song you can’t forget. It slowly creeps in, half serial killer movie, half meditation on life, talent and […]
December 20, 2013

Fantasia 2013 bits III

Saving General Yang (Ronny Yu, 2013) Betrayed by a fellow general and captured behind enemy lines, the seven sons of the eponymous General Yang leave their family’s stronghold to save their father from an enemy out for revenge, and bring him home. With director Ronny Yu at the helm, and based on a popular Chinese tale, Saving General Yang lives […]
March 26, 2010

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (Scott Glosserman, 2006)

WHAT IT IS: Leslie Vernon, a serial-killer aficionado, explains to a news crew how he plans to execute his own supernatural killing spree, like his role-models Krueger, Myers and Voorhees. HOW IT IS: A smart, reflexive take on 80s horror, Behind the Mask supposes that all the horror stories that haunt Elm Street or Crystal Lake are elaborate hoaxes that […]
November 28, 2010

Blades of Blood (Lee Joon-ik, 2010)

Blades of Blood is a terrible title for its film. It evokes some sort of blood-filled horror scene, but it’s far removed from that. I like its original title better, Like the Moon Escaping from the Clouds. It’s a Korean wuxia, a sword-fighting martial arts film set in the 16th century, during the Japanese invasion. As the Japanese army advances, […]
September 28, 2010

Flowers of Shanghaï (Chen Kaige, 1998)

About Flowers of Shanghaï, critic Kent Jones wrote, “It’s tempting to say that there’s no real nuance to speak of in Hou, just a richly composed set of surface details”. Tempting, yes, but such a stand would throw us far from the truth. Hou Hsiao Hsien (HHH)’s depiction of life in the late 19th century seems to stem from the […]
September 28, 2010
Forbidden love and In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)

Wong Kar-Wai is considered influential. In the Mood for Love (2000) was a big commercial success for him. How does it compare to Wong Kar-Wai’s other work?
March 29, 2010

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Scott Derrickson, 2008)

WHAT IT IS: Klaatu, a representative from an alien civilization, lands on Earth to set in motion a plan that involves saving the planet Earth by destroying mankind. HOW IT IS: The Klaatu character seems tailored for Reeves. From his detached sensitivity to his haughty demeanour, the impenetrable Klaatu is scary because he’s alien. The decision to transform the Cold […]
April 24, 2011

Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

WHAT IT IS: A young ballet dancer in a prominent New York company wins the coveted lead in their next production of Swan Lake. Although, her technique as the White Swan is impeccable, she finds it difficult to channel her dark impulses for the Black Swan character. As she struggles against a newcomer to keep the show’s lead, her world […]
November 28, 2010

Overheard (Felix Chong and Alan Mak, 2009)

Thanks to Love in a Puff, I’m looking forward to Overheard. Since it is a Hong Kong film from Alan Mak, one of the directors of Infernal Affairs, I don’t bother to read the synopsis online before buying my ticket. By the pictures in the Fantasia program, I surmise that it’s a star-studded cat-and-mouse psychological thriller, in the vein of […]
October 23, 2013
Key of Life

Key of Life (Kenji Uchida, 2012)

Key of Life’s premise is very close to Rough Cut’s (Hun Jang, 2008). It effectively mixes comedy and drama, resulting in a striking aesthetic blend.