Tag: UK-amazonarrowvideo

Staff & contributors

, 2003

From Korean director Park Chan-wook, who also brought you the far quieter The Handmaiden, comes a movie that is positively terrifying. Its premise alone is enough for any sentient human being to shudder. On his daughter's birthday, the good-for-nothing Oh Dae-su (played by Choic Min-sik) gets drunk and is arrested by the police. A friend eventually bails him out and, while he is making a phone call, Oh Dae-su disappears. Not knowing why, he is held in the same room for 15 years for no apparent reason. Until, one day, he is released. That's all that can be revealed about this winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2004 without giving away too much. All we can add here is the way we recommend Oldboy to people admitting to not having seen it yet: “Watch Oldboy. You're welcome. We're sorry.” A crazy, twisted film that goes to extremes. A cult classic and a statement.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Byeong-ok Kim, Cho Sang-kyung, Choi Jae-sup, Choi Min-sik, Dae-han Ji, Dae-yeon Lee, Han Jae-duk, Heo Myeong-haeng, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji Dae-han, Ji-tae Yu, Jin-Seo Yoon, Jin-seo Yun, Kang Hye-jeong, Kang Hye-jung, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Byung-ok, Kim Su-hyun, Kim Yeong-ae, Kwang-rok Oh, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Seung-shin, Lee Young-hee, Min-sik Choi, Oh Dal-su, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Oh Tae-kyung, Oh Young-joo, Park Jae-Woong, Park Myung-shin, Seo Myeong-Seok, Seung-Shin Lee, Syd Lim, Yoo Il-han, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoo Yeon-seok, Yoon Jin-seo, Yoon Jin-yul, You Il-han

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

The tragic irony of war — that, if battling soldiers had been born in any other time or place, they may well have been friends with each other — takes center stage in this brilliant drama set in WWII-era Java. It's a theme best encapsulated by Captain Yonoi (Ryuichi Sakamoto in his film debut), the bushido code-following commandant of a Japanese POW camp: “How wonderful it would have been if we could have invited all of you to a gathering under our cherry trees,” he muses to the titular British Lieutenant Lawrence (Tom Conti), one of his prisoners.

Lawrence is the camp’s mediator, and not just because he’s fluent in Japanese; in the culture clash microcosm that is the camp, he is uniquely understanding of his captors’ way of life. That earns him special privileges of sorts from the camp’s often brutal enforcer (Takeshi Kitano), but this pales in comparison to the instant partiality with which the charismatic Major Jack Celliers (David Bowie) enjoys, courtesy of a smitten yet deeply repressed and tormented Yonoi. This psychosexual undercurrent bubbles furiously throughout Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, deepening its (already poignant) lamentations about war’s humanity-stripping effect and the self-imposed prisons that are honor and shame.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Alistair Browning, Arthur Ranford, Colin Francis, Daisuke Iijima, David Bowie, Grant Bridger, Hideo Murota, Hiroshi Mikami, Ian Miller, Jack Thompson, Johnny Ohkura, Kan Mikami, Rokkō Toura, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ryūnosuke Kaneda, Takashi Naito, Takeshi Kitano, Tamio Ishikura, Tom Conti, Yūji Honma, Yūya Uchida

Director: Nagisa Ōshima

Rating: R

Set in the small town of Åmål, western Sweden, the debut feature by Lukas Moodysson (We Are the Best), is itself a metonymy for the bigger questions of life. It's playful and dead serious at the same time, in the way it portrays teenager Agnes, who, after two years of living in Åmål, still hasn't made any friends that would attend her birthday party. Instead, she spends her time typing away on her computer, poetic diaries and love confessions to a girl from school named Elin. She's the popular one and therefore, out of reach. The amount of tension and escalating ambivalence the film conjures with just a simple narrative decision—a bet, a kiss, an apology—is palpable throughout the 86 minutes of its runtime. A perfect capsule of lesbian desire and first love, Show Me Love is a gem of a movie; one that would make you think Close was a tad overrated. Oh, and don't forget to add the titular song by Swedish pop star Robyn to your Spotify favorites.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexandra Dahlström, Bo Lyckman, Erica Carlson, Jill Ung, Josefine Nyberg, Maria Hedborg, Mathias Rust, Ralph Carlsson, Rebecka Liljeberg, Stefan Horberg

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Rating: Not Rated

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

, 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

When reading the premise, Tokyo Fist seems, at first glance, like the primordial eclectic mix of Challengers and Fight Club, with tennis swapped for boxing, and with sweat swapped for bruises. The film is entirely centered on a love triangle spurred on by a sport, with both players out to settle their rivalry, triggered again by a girl. However, being directed by cyberpunk horror auteur Shinya Tsukamoto, Tokyo Fist takes on a more visceral approach, with repressed resentment only able to be released through beating the hell out of each other, beating the hell out of themselves, and through bloodying both their fists and their opponents’ faces. It gets avant garde at certain moments, but Tokyo Fist is a sports horror ahead of its time, and an unexpected, underrated film from the man behind cult classic Tetsuo: the Iron Man.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Chu Ishikawa, Julie Dreyfus, Kaori Fujii, Koichi Wajima, Kôji Tsukamoto, Naomasa Musaka, Naoto Takenaka, Nobu Kanaoka, Shinya Tsukamoto, Tokitoshi Shiota, Tomorowo Taguchi

Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

We Are the Best! is one movie that may be overlooked largely by viewers, though it perfectly captures counterculture, and relates to the misfit young and old. The movie is an adaptation of Moodysson's wife Coco's graphic novel "Never Goodnight". Set in Stockholm, Sweden in 1982, Klara (Mira Grosin) and her best friend Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) are junior high teenage girls who believe in their heart that punk rock is alive and well. With both of their home lives not so pleasant, the girls spend their time at the local youth center while taking up the time slot in the band room to get revenge on the local metal band. That's when they find themselves starting a punk band without even knowing how to play an instrument. We Are the Best! is a fun and deeply sincere exploration of adventure, friendship, love, and betrayal in adolescence.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Ann-Sofie Rase, David Dencik, Emrik Ekholm, Felix Sandman, Johan Liljemark, Lena Carlsson, Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Peter Eriksson, Sofi Ahlström Helleday

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Rating: Not Rated

If this South Korean cult favorite relies a little too much on jump scares and twisty plot developments, its relatively emotionally distant story is nevertheless given a welcome boost in character thanks to an impressive overall look and feel. Shadowy and foreboding from beginning to end, A Tale of Two Sisters seems to be designed for group viewings where friends can spook each other out without losing track of the film's momentum. But it's far from shallow: patient horror fans should enjoy unpacking the movie's densely layered character dynamics, which become all the more disturbing and sorrowful after learning all of the film's secrets.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery

Actor: Kim Gap-soo, Kim Kap-soo, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Seung-bi, Lim Soo-jung, Moon Geun-young, Park Mi-hyun, Seung-bi Lee, Woo Ki-hong, Yum Jung-ah

Director: Kim Jee-woon

Rating: R

, 2007

TV reporter documenting a day with a local fire crew, they encounter a deadly virus trapped in a tower block. This film is bloody brilliant! Innovative camera work and a simple idea perfectly executed. When I watched this, I was alone in the dark and ended up constantly jumping around with fright and excitement. A real wake up for other horror filmmakers, Hollywood hasn't come close to anything like this.

Genre: Horror, Mystery

Actor: Akemi Goto, Ana Isabel Velásquez, Ben Temple, Carlos Lasarte, Carlos Vicente, Claudia Silva, David Vert, Ferran Terraza, Jana Prats, Javier Botet, Javier Coromina, Jorge-Yamam Serrano, Kao Chen-Min, Kao Chenmin, Manuel Bronchud, Manuela Velasco, Maria Lanau, Maria Teresa Ortega, Marita Borrego, Martha Carbonell, Pablo Rosso, Vicente Gil, Víctor Massagué

Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

Rating: R

Nine years after his out-of-nowhere, mind-bending premier Primer, writer/producer/director/ star Shane Carruth returns with this exponentially more challenging feature—a neo sci-fi/drama/romance/thriller quite nearly impossible to describe effectively in words. Ostensibly focused upon a woman who has been drugged, brainwashed and robbed and is subsequently drawn to an unknown man who has experienced a similar theft, Carruth draws out the drama in a fractured narrative that challenges the viewer to piece together the dream-like story fragments and implications like a complicated puzzle. Certainly not "audience friendly" in any sort of traditional sense, I love how Carruth paints such an elaborate, intelligent tale in such a remarkably original manner. If this is the future of film, I'm definitely on board.

Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Amy Seimetz, Andreon Watson, Andrew Sensenig, Ashton Miramontes, Brina Palencia, Carolyn King, Frank Mosley, Jack Watkins, John Walpole, Joy Leigh, Kerry McCormick, Mollie Milligan, Myles McGee, Shane Carruth, Thiago Martins

Director: Shane Carruth

Rating: Not Rated

This little gem of a sci-fi is based on actual physics theory and doesn't make you cringe every time some technobabble word comes out. Watching it the first time around leaves most viewers puzzled at the end, but wanting to see it again. Shot at a budget of ~$7000, don't expect any flashy special effects or CGI. Do be prepared, however, for some mind boggling paradoxical ideas that require some effort to wrap your brain around.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Anand Upadhyaya, Ashley Warren, Ashok Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford, Casey Gooden, Chip Carruth, David Sullivan, Jay Butler, John Carruth, Juan Tapia, Keith Bradshaw, Kevin Lucero Less, Samantha Thomson, Shane Carruth

Director: Shane Carruth

Rating: PG-13