Tag: Canada-asiancrush

Staff & contributors

Clocking in at just under four hours, Hu Bo's first and last feature film—before his tragic death at the age of 29—is a sprawling indictment of a country that the filmmaker must have viewed as positively hostile and suffocating. Following several characters whose paths intersect as they try to escape their current circumstances, An Elephant Sitting Still creates a truly oppressive atmosphere that may not lead you to the answers you expect, but it should leave you feeling haunted for a long, long time. Beautifully scored, shot, and acted, Hu's film offers practically no hope but it keeps on moving with a sense of freedom and determination all its own. This is as honest a film can get; Hu has left behind a moving legacy.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Chaobei Wang, Li Congxi, Li Qing, Peng Yuchang, Wang Ning, Wang Yuwen, Zhang Yu, Zhao Tao, Zhaoyan Guozhang, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Zhu Yanmanzi, Zhu-Yan Manzi

Director: Hu Bo

While more people are familiar with its US adaptation, Il Mare is far more striking and emotionally resonant. The Korean romance, separated by timelines, depicts two lonely people who lived in the same seaside residence. They form a bond through the titular house’s mailbox, by sharing letters, voice recorders, and suggestions to deal with loneliness. As they receive each other’s messages, the film slowly reveals the reason for their loneliness– that they’ve been left behind. Matched with shots of creeping urbanization, migration, and the Y2K scare, Il Mare understands modern isolation, but it also underscores how solitude helps us connect with other people.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Cho Seung-yeon, Hong So-yeong, Ji-hyun Jun, Jun Ji-hyun, Jung-jae Lee, Kim Moo-saeng, Kim Mu-saeng, Lee Jung-jae, Mu-saeng Kim, Seung-yeon Jo

Director: Hyun-seung Lee, Lee Hyeon-seung, Lee Hyun-seung

Rating: N/A

As time goes by, the youth doesn’t recognize how connected they are to previous tragedies, more so when it comes to war. Some even say that they have no part in it. Nobuhiko Obayashi’s later years have been preoccupied in countering this idea. Casting Blossoms to the Sky is the first of Obayashi’s anti-war trilogy, with the film inviting its audience to follow a journalist rediscovering the city of Nagaoka after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. There’s a certain dreamlike approach to the way the various war stories are weaved together, with vibrant frames, simple CGI, and prominent green screen that grants some distance between the audience and the actual wartime reality, but it’s no less potent as Reiko interviews those that remember the scars of the past, and the rituals, practices, and art they’ve taken up in response. Casting Blossoms is a depressing story about war and disaster, one that is a tough one to watch. But it never forgets the humanity, the kindness and love that allowed Japan to recover, the very qualities we must protect and remember in ourselves.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, War

Actor: Akira Emoto, Bengal, Chōei Takahashi, Hirona Yamazaki, Hiroshi Inuzuka, Kanae Katsuno, Koji Ishikawa, Mansaku Ikeuchi, Masahiro Takashima, Masao Kusakari, Masayuki Yui, Mayuu Kusakari, Minami Inomata, Misako Renbutsu, Naoyuki Morita, Natsuki Harada, Saki Terashima, Seina Suzuki, Shiho Fujimura, Shirô Namiki, Sumiko Fuji, Takahito Hosoyamada, Takashi Sasano, Takehiro Murata, Takuro Atsuki, Tomoko Hoshino, Tōru Shinagawa, Toshie Negishi, Toshinori Omi, Toshio Kakei, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Yuto Kobayashi

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

It’s 1994, and Seoul is facing massive, rapid changes. The unrest is reflected by a lot of its residents, including Eun-hee, a disaffected teen with a less-than-stellar home and school life. She manages to get by with the help of friends and lovers, that is until they change too, and Eun-hee is forced to grapple with the volatility of it all. 

Sensitively told and genuinely captivating, House of Hummingbird is a stellar debut by writer-director Kim Bo-ra. Her command shines in how young actress Park Ji-hoo dynamically portrays Eun-hee, in how the story meanders but never loses footing, and in how each frame displays a quiet gorgeousness as the primary colors of her youth pop against the faded backdrop of urbanized Seoul. The delicate balance of all these elements is sure to evoke a sincere, profound feeling in every viewer. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: In-gi Jeong, Jeong In-gi, Jung In-gi, Kil Hae-yeon, Kim Jong-goo, Kim Mi-hyang, Kim Sae-byuk, Lee Jong-yoon, Lee Seung-yeon, Park Ji-hu, Park Seo-yoon, Park Soo-yeon, Park Yoon-hee, Seol Hye-in, Son Sang-yeon

Director: Kim Bora

Millennium Actress, from famed animation director Satoshi Kon, is about lives lived and unlived. It follows Chiyoko Fujiwara, an actress from Japan’s golden age of cinema, as she recounts her life to two documentarians making a film about the history of the now-defunct Ginei Studios. Kon employs a metafilm narrative approach, framing Chiyoko’s lifelong search for her great love through the movie roles she has played, all interweaved through Kon’s stunning genre switches and signature match cuts. Millennium Actress poignantly explores the bittersweet irony of “larger-than-life” cinema, how it can contain a multitude of lifetimes and still be lacking, and how films serve as extensions of memories and yearning.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Fumiko Orikasa, Hisako Kyoda, Koichi Yamadera, Mami Koyama, Masane Tsukayama, Masaya Onosaka, Minagawa Junko, Miyoko Shoji, Showko Tsuda, Shozo Iizuka, Tomie Kataoka

Director: Kou Matsuo, Satoshi Kon

Rating: PG

While best known for 1977 cult horror classic House, Nobuhiko Obayashi first dreamed of adapting Hanagatami, a 1937 novella by Kazuo Dan, and it was only until the later end of his life that he got to fulfill that dream. It’s possibly the reason why Hanagatami feels like a surreal set of memories, with Karatsu’s seaside portrayed with theatrical sets and back projection, with scenes flipped and unflipped ever so often, with Bach looped and mixed with dissonant chords and children singing. And as the teenagers of Karatsu try to cling to their innocence despite the looming possibility of death, Obayashi remembers the lives cut short, not in nostalgia, but in an anxious bid for us to remember humanity’s biggest failure.

Genre: Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Hirona Yamazaki, Honoka Yahagi, Kayoko Shiraishi, Keishi Nagatsuka, Kiyotaka Nanbara, Masahiro Takashima, Mugi Kadowaki, Shinnosuke Ikehata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Shunsuke Kubozuka, Takahito Hosoyamada, Takako Tokiwa, Takao Ito, Takehiro Murata, Tetsuya Takeda, Tokio Emoto, Tōru Shinagawa, Toshie Negishi, Tsurutaro Kataoka, Wakaba Irie, Yuriko Ono

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi

Audition is not for the faint of heart. It's shockingly violent and deeply unsettling, filled with sights and sounds that will haunt you for days on end. But there is grace to its terror; it's profound and artistic in ways that elevate it from generic horror fare.

On a deeper level, Audition is about the destructive power of abuse, trauma, and loneliness, about how a society that neglects to recognize this eventually suffers from it. The revenge plot isn't merely individual, as well, but a representation of the female subconscious: tired of objectification, eager for redress. And everything about the way the film is made, from the shaky camera and titled frames to the dramatic shadows and eerie lighting, reflects that imbalance. 

Audition may be chilling and gruesome, but it's also smart and important, a psychosexual thriller that captures female anger well before it became the rage. 

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Eihi Shiina, Fumiyo Kohinata, Jun Kunimura, Kanji Tsuda, Ken Mitsuishi, Kimiko Tachibana, Miyuki Matsuda, Ren Osugi, Renji Ishibashi, Ryo Ishibashi, Shigeru Saiki, Tatsuo Endō, Tetsu Sawaki, Toshie Negishi, Yuriko Hirooka

Director: Takashi Miike

Rating: R

Vague statement alert: Burning is not a movie that you “get”; it’s a movie you experience. Based on a short story by Murakami, it’s dark and bleak in a way that comes out more in the atmosphere of the movie rather than what happens in the story. Working in the capital Seoul, a young guy from a poor town near the North Korean border runs into a girl from his village. As he starts falling for her, she makes an unlikely acquaintance with one of Seoul’s wealthy youth (played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, pictured above.) This new character is mysterious in a way that’s all-too-common in South Korea: young people who have access to money no one knows where it came from, and who are difficult to predict or go against. Two worlds clash, poor and rich, in a movie that’s really three movies combined into one - a character-study, a romance, and a revenge thriller.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ah-in Yoo, Ban Hye-ra, Cha Mi-Kyung, ChoI Seung-ho, Jang Won-hyung, Jeon Jong-seo, Jeon Seok-chan, Jeong Da-yi, Jong-seo Jun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Shin-rock, Kim Shin-rok, Kim Sin-rock, Kim Soo-kyung, Lee Bong-ryeon, Lee Joong-ok, Lee Soo-jeong, Min Bok-gi, Moon Sung-keun, Ok Ja-yeon, Song Duk-ho, Soo-Kyung Kim, Steven Yeun, Yoo Ah-in

Director: Chang-dong Lee, Lee Chang-dong

Rating: Not Rated

When it comes to being a drama with a cohesive and understandable message, Swing Kids falters, and doesn’t make it clear whether or not the film advocates for either pro-capitalist or pro-communist ideas– understandably so, considering how to this day, the peninsula remains split in part due to foreign intervention. The film is a bit too long, and struggles to juggle multiple tones, being a violent war drama, slapstick comedy, and fun tap-dancing musical all at once. But, when the film revels in dance and celebrates the connections made through it, the film shines, creating an incredible sonic soundscape composed entirely of rhythmic taps and sweeping brass, with the five leads dancing in pure joy. Swing Kids is not perfect, but it has heart and it recognizes the waste and tragedy of the human side that is lost due to war.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: A.J. Simmons, Doh Kyung-soo, Hye-soo Park, Jared Grimes, Jeong-se Oh, Joo Hae-eun, Kim Kyu-baek, Kim Min-ho, Kim Min-jae, Kyung-soo Do, Lee Da-wit, Lee Kyu-sung, Matthew D'Arcy, Oh Gyeong-hwa, Oh Jeong-se, Oh Jung-se, Park Hye-su, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Jin-joo, Ross Kettle

Director: Hyeong-Cheol Kang, Kang Hyoung-chul, Kang Hyung-chul

Rating: TV-14

, 1998

Despite being remade, parodied, and absorbed into pop culture over the years, the original Ring defiantly marches to the beat of its own drum. Focused entirely on building a slow-burn mystery instead of dispensing scares, the film provides ample space for a number of interpretations: on the spread of technology, the erasure of traditional beliefs, or even motherhood. It's all relentlessly quiet and extremely creepy, the tension building with the same energy as ghost stories told around a campfire. And while famous for its eerie images and the rules surrounding its cursed videotape, Ringu also serves as a reminder that great horror should compel the audience to keep on watching, even if they already know exactly what awaits them if they do.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Daisuke Ban, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Hitomi Satô, Katsumi Muramatsu, Kiriko Shimizu, Masako, Miki Nakatani, Miwako Kaji, Nanako Matsushima, Rie Ino'o, Rikiya Ôtaka, Yôichi Numata, Yôko Ôshima, Yûko Takeuchi, Yûrei Yanagi, Yutaka Matsushige

Director: Hideo Nakata

There is a lot to admire about this revenge film from director Mouly Surya—the breathtaking shots of rural Indonesia, the grisly practicality of the titular Marlina, the relevant observations on gender politics, and the simple yet stylistic way all of this is revealed. Fans of Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns are also treated with an Eastern reimagining of tropes as the film exchanges long guns for Kabeala knives and sprawling deserts for tropical hills.

Packed with so many delights, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is a near-impossible miss. But if you somehow find none of this gripping, you can always rely on the sure thrill of seeing scorned women bloodily and rightfully avenge themselves. 

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Western

Actor: Anggun Priambodo, Ayez Kassar, Dea Panendra, Egi Fedly, Egy Fedly, Haydar Salishz, Indra Birowo, Marsha Timothy, Norman R. Akyuwen, Ozzol Ramdan, Rita Matu Mona, Ruly Lubis, Safira Ahmad, Sapto Soetardjo, Tumpal Tampubolon, Yayu A.W. Unru, Yayu Unru, Yoga Pratama

Director: Mouly Surya

Rating: Unrated

Based on the first jury trial in South Korea, Juror 8 tells the story of eight ordinary citizens with different backgrounds who are summoned to be the jurors of a case that's believed to be a murder. These characters who have no background or knowledge in law find themselves able to decide someone's fate. Unlike 12 Angry Men, Juror 8 delivers a lot of cunning and humorous dialogue between the characters. It’s a good mix between comedy and mystery.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Baek Soo-jang, Cha Mi-kyeong, Cho Soo-hyang, Choi Ri, Choi Young-woo, Go Seo-hee, Jeong Do-won, Jo Han-chul, Kim Hak-seon, Kim Hak-sun, Kim Mi-kyoung, Kim Sun-young, Kwon Hae-hyo, Lee Kyoo-hyung, Lee Yeong-jin, Lee Yong-i, Lee Yong-yi, Moon So-ri, Park Hyung-sik, Park Jae-wan, Park Jin-young, Pierce Conran, Rie Young-zin, Ryu Deok-hwan, Seo Hyun-woo, Seo Jeong-yeon, Seo Jin-won, Seo Jung-yeon, Seo Young-ju, Shim Dal-gi, Yeom Hye-ran, Yoo Soon-woong, Yoon Kyung-ho, Yum Dong-hun

Director: Hong Seung-wan

Rating: Not Rated

Always follows the story of Jeong-hwa and Cheol-min, both very different individuals who are gentle in their own way. The story starts off by demonstrating how different the leads are in terms of their personality and their outlook on life. The plot can be a little predictable and cliche in some moments, but Always is not a complicated movie—though in addition to being a romance, it also includes some surprising violence that may intensify your viewing experience. Still, Always is about the two leads’ struggle against fate as they try to survive their tough situations, with strong chemistry between the lead actors from start to finish.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance

Actor: Cho Seong-ha, Goo Seung-hyun, Han Hyo-joo, Jin Goo, Jung Jae-jin, Kang Shin-il, Kim Jung-hak, Kim Jung-pal, Kim Mi-kyeong, Kim Seon-hwa, Lee Chae-won, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Park Cheol-min, Park Chul-min, Park Seong-geun, So Ji-sub, Yeom Hye-ran

Director: Song Il-gon

While the police haven't been getting a good rep in recent years, there were times when cops actually got the job done, and went after the gangs that we individuals can’t. Kang Yun-seong’s narrative feature debut is based on the real-life Yanbian Heuksapa Incident, and what’s interesting is that along with having Ma Dong-seok deliver some of the finest and most entertaining fight scenes, there’s a sense that these cops actually care about people, like when Seok-do urges his boss to be gentle towards their team after having to stay in the office longer, or when he reaches out and works directly with the community. The Outlaws doesn’t transform the genre, but it’s well-written, well-choreographed, and held together through the strength of Ma Dong-seok’s charisma (and arms). It’s no wonder director Kang and Don Lee managed to transform this into a sprawling franchise, something to be akin to Korea’s Fast & Furious.

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Bae Jin-ah, Cho Jin-woong, Choi Guy-hwa, Choi Gwi-hwa, Geum Gwang-san, Ha Jun, Heo Dong-won, Heo Sung-tae, Hong Gi-jun, Hong Ki-joon, Jeong In-gi, Jeong In-kyeom, Jin Seon-kyu, Jin Sun-kyu, Jo Jae-yun, Kim Koo-taek, Kim Sung-kyu, Lee Kyu-ho, Lim Hyung-jun, Ma Dong-seok, Min Kyung-jin, Min Moo-je, Park Ji-hwan, Uhm Ji-sung, Ye Jung-hwa, Yoo Ji-yeon, Yoon Byung-hee, Yoon Joo, Yoon Kye-sang

Director: Kang Yoon-sung, Kang Yun-sung

Rating: Not Rated

When we love a person, most of us are convinced that we love them for their personality, and if we truly love them, love would remain even if their beauty fades away. The Beauty Inside, a Korean remake of the 2012 American interactive Internet series, challenges this notion. As Woo-jin’s body changes regularly, he’s unable to live a normal life because of a lack of a consistent appearance, a lack of a visual reference point that allows him to be recognized by the people he loves. While more can be explored with the premise's metaphysical elements, and Woo-jin’s characterization is mostly a neutral, blank canvas, The Beauty Inside is still a sweet, feel-good romance that makes the impossible feel wonderfully possible.

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Bae Hyun-kyung, Bae Sung-woo, Choi Yong-min, Chun Woo-hee, Do Ji-han, Go A-sung, Go Gyu-pil, Gong Min-jeung, Ha Si-yeon, Ham Tae-in, Han Hyo-joo, Jang Eui-soo, Jo Dal-hwan, Jung Young-ki, Juri Ueno, Kim Dae-myung, Kim Hee-won, Kim Joo-hyuk, Kim Min-jae, Kim Sang-ho, Kim See-eun, Ko Dong-hyoung, Lee Beom-soo, Lee Bom, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Dong-wook, Lee Hyun-woo, Lee Jae-joon, Lee Ji-min, Lee Ji-won, Lee Jin-wook, Lee Kyung-young, Lee Mi-do, Moon Sook, Ok Joo-ri, Park Keun-rok, Park Seo-jun, Park Shin-hye, Seo Kang-joon, Shin Dong-mi, Son Seong-chan, Yeom Ji-young, Yoo Yeon-seok, Yoon Hwan

Director: Baik