K-voodoo: I saw the devil

28 11 2016

The Wailing is a long, intense horror flick which mines an interesting seam of Korean culture, its pre-Confucian shaman beliefs. In this battle of light and dark, a mudang – or witch doctor – is bought into a small Korean town to do battle with a force of evil emanating – or is it? – from a strange old man who lives on a nearby mountain. Its a strange, ambiguous and compelling movie with some well-executed shocks, some extraordinary scenes that seem to have almost come out of a (great) anthropological doco, a few very dark laughs and a lingering question posed at the end…definitely worth a look.



21 11 2016

On the night of the “supermoon” I went to see director Lee Sang-il’s new movie “Rage,” featuring an all-star Japanese cast and an intriguing premise. After a grisly murder, the story cuts to three separate stories. In each strand, a mysterious stranger has arrived into a community. Gradually, all manner of repressed anger and anguish is revealed. In one segment, a Tokyo gay party boy finds a new boyfriend with an obscure past. In another, a quiet drifter turns up in a Chiba fishing village. And in Okinawa, a girl finds a backpacker camping out on an isolated beach. Which of these three men is the killer?

It is a grippingly well-executed film, largely keeping melodrama at bay (despite the weepy trailer) and Satoshi Tsumabuki’s all-out gay role was something of a revelation – he just got a hell of a lot sexier in my opinion.

There are also impressive turns from Ken Watanabe, Aoi Miyazaki, Kenichi Matsuyama and music by Ryuichi Sakamoto.


Meanwhile in the gay world…

16 08 2016

The trailer for hotly-tipped forthcoming indie movie “Moonlight” featuring Janelle Monae! And below, “Spa Night”:


31 01 2016


I had expected Tag, the latest movie by cult Japanese B-grade director Sono Sion, to be a schlocky gore fest. The bloodplattered schoolgirl on the poster was a dead giveaway. As it turns out though, the film is a schlocky gore fest in which schoolgirls are machine-gunned and dismembered in service of a strikingly feminist message, delivered thought-provokingly and with great panache. The film has a dream-like surreal atmosphere, in which settings and faces jarring shift and change, with moments of great humour and blood splattering satisfaction. In other words, it turned out to be much better than I expected.

The story involves ( SPOILER ALERT!) a dreamy schoolgirl Mitsuko (played by mixed Austrian-Japanese model Reina Triendl) who finds herself plunged into a nightmarish world in which she is pursued senselessly by nameless assailants in a series of seemingly unconnected scenes.

It was only halfway through the film that I noticed something that had been nagging at me; there were no men. Even in the crowd scenes and on the streets, the passers-by were all female. It was a world of women.

Then suddenly it changes again to an all-male world, literally titled “the universe of men.”

When it becomes clear that it is from this world that the forces hunting Mitsuko are being controlled, we begin to understand the poignancy of the message delivered by Mitsuko’s ally, a lesbian sidekick: fight back. Kill them all!

The film is urging Japanese women to fight back against the roles they are forced into by “the world of men” with the support of their fellow women – pretty radical stuff.

I loved it.

A clockwork orange

31 01 2016

Revisiting a masterpiece. Still dazzling and disturbing all these years later… and I adore this unsettling score.


Planet Star Wars

15 12 2015


Above, Ramakien Stormtrooper. Below, everyone’s favourite luminous Mexican-Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o and below again, a poster from the original Thai movie release.

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China, Japan, Hong Kong … and Iran.

8 06 2015

A retrospective of Guangzhou artist Chao Shao-an at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in Sha-tin.

There is also a show of young local artists on there called “Walking Through the Dreams” featuring a series of ‘dreamlike’ vignettes – a motorcycle tethered by spiderweb like-cords in a darkened room apparently racing through a tunnel on the screen in front of it, a maze-like house of double-sided mirrors and refracted scenes and a thicket of twigs and pulsating coloured lights.

Meanwhile, back on Hong Kong island, the Yoshitomo Nara show is still on at the beautiful but little visited Asia Society building in Admiralty, with its dramatic building perched on a tumbling hilltop of lush green forest.

Also on: this thought-provoking set-within-a-car Iranian movie, Taxi. It is much sweeter than this clip shows. There is an undercurrent of politics yes,but also a great, big beating humanist heart and a sense of humour.

Wild Tales

19 04 2015

Best film of the year so far? Wild Tales is a collection of six vignettes telling the dark and twisted stories of people pushed to their limits…and beyond. These are tales of gleeful revenge – a wronged bride turns her wedding night into a nightmare, a stuffy music critic has the tables turned and a suburban ‘everyman’ gets fed up with the frustrations of living every day in a corrupt system. It is a wildly enjoyably film – funny, dark, excrutiating in places and gloriously camp in others. But it never loses sight of its true message: the plight of individuals who crack under the pressure of a patriarchal, unjust and contemptuous society (Argentina). Told with sumptuous music and cinematography, razor sharp wit and great acting all round, these stories are a knockout. The movie has been described as an Argentinian “Pulp Fiction” and I concur, it has something of the latter’s sharpness, darkness and wild sense of fun.

I loved “Wild Tales”.


2 02 2015

Films of the year

16 12 2014

Under the Skin: 



O Som ao Redor:  (The Sounds Around Us): 

Stranger by the Lake:


The Babadook: 

12 Years A Slave: 

Honorable mentions for older movies I saw for the first time this year: Castaway and the Moon, Nightfishing, The Fantastic Mr Fox, Exit Through the Giftshop.

Zombie Fight Club

27 10 2014

There is so ‘bad that its good’ and then ‘so all-over-the-place that it is mindboggling’ and Zombie Fight Club falls with aplomb into the second category. Featuring: the dreamy Andy On as a chiselled SWAT team member, Jessica C ( an ‘actress’ whose response to every scene is to make her eyes bulge out like an ostrich), girls whose first reaction to being chased by zombies is to take their tops off, a complete plot re-boot halfway through, blood everywhere, homoerotic shirtless kung fu fights, a chainsaw, zombie blowjob jokes and a Taiwanese rapper called MC Hotdog. The “bread eating” scene will stay with me until I die. Four out of five stars.

10 05 2014

The newie from Pang Ho-Cheung, director of “Love in a Puff”, sees the film maker stray from his usual comedies while staying true to his observational style of film-making. “Aberdeen”, which has been heavily promoted with saturation advertising featuring its all-star cast and a tie-in with clothing retailer Bossini, is a quirky family drama about the lives and loves of one family played out against a vivid Hong Kong backdrop. The movie sprawls – there are numerous plotlines interweaving, not all of them fully developed. But as my boyfriend said, thats a very Hong Kong experience in itself – too much happening all at once.

The film stars Miriam Yeung, HK cosmetics-pitch pin-up girl Gigi Leung in a role as, well a HK cosmetics-pitch pin-up girl, perma-tanned Louis Khoo some jokey cameos from the director’s former “Love in a Puff ” stars, and a slew of other wellknown faces from HK film and television.


15 03 2014

Finally saw – what a beautiful, fascinating movie.


29 01 2013

I loved Django Unchained – Tarantino is back! And Jamie  Foxx was surprisingly…sexy.


16 12 2012

“Hanna” is one of the movies that just come at you out of nowhere. I had had the DVD lying around the house for months before bothering to put it on – only to discover it is great! The plot revolves around a “Leon”-style child assassin being pursued by secret agent Cate Blanchett. The whole thing is based around the concept of a spy thriller wrapped around a fairy tale – we first meet ‘Hanna’ as a girl living in a timeless hut in the woods with her father (Eric Bana), before she is pursued by Blanchett, playing to all intents and purposes the modern incarnation of an evil stepmother. Their climactic confrontation takes place in an abandoned amusement park, in the mouth of a giant wolf.

What sets the film apart though are the performances – Cate being gleefully evil and glacially chic, and the main actress Saoirse Ronana who is stunningly pretty and great at accents. Even native speaker Daisuke was impressed with her German accent – usually done badly in movies, (the actress is Irish).

As well, it is a film with great visual flair and a sense of place. It starts in a fairtyale Nordic tundra, moves to an evocative Morocco and reaches fever pitch in Berlin – all drab streets and ugly orange plastic interiors, much like the Berlin I remember.

Plus – music by the Chemical Brothers, some funny lines (including a withering critique of liberal parenting), a bizarre cameo by one of the cast member of Downton Abbey, Eric Bana in wet underwear (if you are into that) and some exciting chase scenes although as so often happens, it flags a bit at the end. Still, recommended.

Four stars.


4 10 2012

Apparently 1950s rock greaser hair is the new style in Seoul. It certainly did wonders for Korean hearthrob Hyun Bin, who I had never considered that attractive until he adopted an Elvis quiff to smoulder through recent romance Late Autumn, despite his sometimes awkward English with Chinese co-star Tang Wei. He plays, fittingly, a sleazy male hooker who charms women off their feet.

Gay Taiwanese

25 08 2012


Taipei continues its recent ascent to the Chinese-speaking world’s biggest gay party city with its upcoming Pride Weekend celebration, coming in October. I’ve been considering going since I picked up a flyer at the gay mango smoothie place in Silom, Bangkok.

In the meantime, there is some more Taiwanese gayness, the cute-looking new movie, “Girlfriend Boyfriend “.

Lan Kwai Fong Divas

18 08 2012

Lan Kwai Fong is Hong Kong’s beery, boorish bar strip, a street peopled with expat executives getting plastered, rugby fans, trashy-looking Chinese girls and apparently (see above) platinum blonde gay-looking straight dudes getting their freak on. Although I am not a fan of the LKF ‘scene’, (Ghetto club excepted), the movie was kinda fun, in an “Asian Jersey Shore” kind of way. The movie’s main female star,  Shiga Lin made the tabloids recently for “sex pics” with HK rapper K-chek. Actually the pictures were pretty tame but in the subsequent fallout she admitted – horror! – that they had had sex.

Much more of a squeaky clean diva in the traditional HK mould is omnipresent products pitcher, Joey Yung. Her new movie Diva, a kind of Chinese “Burlesque”, follows a young star on the rise to the top in the cutthroat world of showbiz. It  caught my attention though with this smart trailer. In it, an  unseen interviewer asking the Cantopop superstar how she feels about her career as a singer, prompting some wistful soul-searching about the demands of being always “on duty” and her fraught relationship with a controlling manager. There is no indication anywhere that she is speaking ‘in character’, it could be a real documentary about the real Joey Yung (although of course its not). Definitely hooked me in though. Smart advertising. The trailer is below (unfortunately with no English subtitles though) and both movies will come out in Hong Kong over the next couple of weeks.

Sadako is back…at the bus stop.

13 06 2012

To celebrate the new 3D release of the latest “Ring” horror franchise installment , these spooky posters have been popping up on the transparent billboards at bus shelters all over town. Well done whoever came up with that concept.

Coriolanus: Super Butch

14 05 2012

When I was teaching high school in Australia, I went to a two day workshop entitled “Shakespeare for Boys”. At the conference, much was made of the strong resistance boys typically show towards studying Shakespeare. The school I was at had chosen Macbeth (wisely, I think) as its Shakespearean text on the grounds that it had more to appeal to male teenagers – with its darkness and blood – than, say “A Midsummer Nights Dream”.

For some of these educators, “Coriolanus” will come as a godsend – except that it is probably too violent to be shown in schools anyway.

Ralph Fienne’s directorial debut sees an obscure Shakespeare tragedy brought to the modern age, pumped full of testosterone and shot in Belgrade for added ugliness. Its a gritty and stark exploration of mob violence and dirty politics which could hardly be better timed, given the current mood in Europe. The film comes complete with grim-looking unshaven Slavic men in wifebeaters, crappy apartment blocks, explosions, lots of regional accents and angular grafitti. Its compelling stuff, even if self-indulgent for its director and star. There are numerous opportunities for Ralph to launch into wild-eyed monologues, spitting into the camera at close range, his face covered theatrically in blood. He also participates with Gerard Butler in the most homoerotic stabbing scene ever.

Vanessa Redgrave has fun too, in an against-type role as a warlike harpie.

Movie magic: a roundup

9 05 2012

“Once Upon A Time In Anatolia” is the movie that I saw at the recent Turkish Film Festival, screening at the drowsiness-inducing 9.30pm slot on a midweek night. Although the first half of the slow, mysterious film is undoubtedly beautiful – thanks to moodily lit shots of the ravishing Turkish countryside, the meandering second half lost me a bit.

“Cabin in the Woods” is, pardon the pun, an absolute killer. Considerably more than the sum of its spunky parts, this is a smart, funny, scary satire on our perverse  need to be scared. Win-win-win. Chris Hemsworthy (Home and Away-cum-Thor) makes an appealing dumb American jock and the dialogue sparkles.

To the surprise of some perhaps – including frankly, myself – I had never watched “Clockwork Orange” until this week. And it was, indeed, pretty amazing. The Russian-peppered dialogue and mishmash of period clothing made me oddly uneasy, and the sex/violence scenes still have the power to shock (me at least), forty years after they were filmed. But it was also a beautiful, fascinating movie (although Malcom McDowell got cruelly typecast, moving on to Caligula). In fact it was interesting to see the myriad of references  that have come from the film in their original forms: Moloko, knives and mascara, ultra-violence… I’m looking forward to watching it again. And can I just say – the set design is superb. The “writer’s house”, scene of the infamous assault and revenge scenes is my dream home, in terms of the interior alone.  I’ve been convinced; I think I’ll give “Space Oddyssey” a go next week.