Archive

Tag Archives: Featured

OK – so you’re officially in to foreign cinema, and want to be a little more adventurous. Here‘s a is a list of foreign films that are suited to those looking to further explore the more engaging, unique, and interesting movies that other countries have to offer. These are ‘middle of the spectrum’ movies: they require more effort and attention than the previous list for beginners, but aren’t quite the ‘hardcore’ existential or often divisive films that need to be cryptically pulled apart.

This article also has an intentional modern bias. Most of he ‘Best foreign films’ lists appear to have been voted for, and compiled, by older people who only seem to watch a small and predictable list of films made before 1980. That’s utter bobbins, and completely pisses me off. Like music, art, or photography, there’s great things being created all the time. Apologies for the completely arbitrary number but I’ve been deliberating over this list for over three months.

Amores Perros

Amores Perros (Love’s A Bitch – Mexico): three different lives brought together by a car single crash. An intricate, intertwined, and multi-layered drama that follows and connects a fashion model, dog-fighter and homeless assassin. This is a raw, authentic, and unflinching look different social classes in Mexico City. It’s 153 mins long, but packs in three fleshed out stories with overlapping themes of violence, family, and inequality. Despite being Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (Birdman) first film, you knew straight away he was someone special. Storytelling in its purest form. TRAILER

Sex and Fury 01 Reiko Ike, Akemi Negishi, Christina Lindberg, Ryôko Ema, Yôko Hori, Naomi Oka, Rena Ichinose

Sex and Fury (不良姐御伝 猪の鹿お蝶 Furyō anego den: Inoshika o-Chō – Japan): a highlight of the ‘Pinky Violence’ genre (think nudity and nunchucks). This is a refreshing combination of kick-ass female lead, breathtaking visuals, a historical setting, and a revenge story that leans heavily on crimson-splattered action set pieces. Put that all together and you’ve got a supremely high-quality exploitation film that is the blueprint for Kill Bill. Proof that ‘video nasty‘ / exploitation movies can be well-crafted and visually spectacular; beautiful and brutal in equal measures. TRAILER

City Of God Brasil Brazil Lil Ze Rocket Drugs Crime Gangs

City of God (Cidade de Deus – Brazil): an honest, visceral, and no-holds-barred drama that follows a group of kids in Rio favelas from childhood in the 1960s through to the 1980s, and how the city and its people changed. It got Oscar nods for direction, cinematography, editing, and writing, so you know it’s a well-made piece of cinema. With such an ambitious scope, and featuring mostly non-actors this was an enormous gamble, but it paid off big time, and has a legacy of one of the best foreign movies ever made. Often referred to as ‘The Brazilian Goodfellas – lets just call if GoodFavellas from now on? TRAILER

Oldboy Korean Movie

OldBoy (올드보이, Oldeuboi – Korea): an unrivaled tale of epic revenge. Everything about this film is exceptional. There’s a grand and intriguing story, meticulous direction, intense action scenes, a nice layer of humour, and the finale to end all movie endings. Every time I watch OldBoy it blows me away. It’s fantastic and cinematic but rooted in reality by sublime, career defining, performances. It sits perfectly in the middle of a trilogy, and you can’t go wrong with Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, or Lady Vengeance either. An original masterpiece that didn’t deserve a Hollywood, or Bollywood, remake – it’s arguably the best film from one of the world’s best film-makers. TRAILER

tillsammans-(2000) Together Lukas Moodysson 2

Together (Tillsammans – Sweden): Explores the life of an over-populated ‘hippy commune’ house in 1970s Stockholm. A micro drama about real people, that manages to be satirical, funny and poignant at the same time. The housemates are vegetarians, homosexuals, hippies, confused teenagers and alcoholics: basically a comedy scrip-writer’s wet dream. It sports a great ensemble cast, a masterful director coming in to his prime, and the happiest ending to a film I can remember seeing – Football and Abba. Between this and Fucking Amal, arguably Lukas Moodysson’s finest era. TRAILER

Infernal Affairs Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Chapman To, Gordon Lam, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng, Berg Ng, Wan Chi-keung, Dion Lam, Elva Hsiao

Infernal Affairs (無間道, 无间道 – Hong Kong): a powerful and simple concept – the triads have a mole in the police, and the police have a mole in the triads… who’s cover will be blown first? While on paper it’s technically a gangster/action film’s success rests on moments of high tension, drama and suspense; scenes where characters are just about to be made by the opposing side. The cream of H.K. actors push this single concept story from great to amazing. The Departed remake is a fantastic film, but this is still superior in every way. TRAILER

Persepolis Marjane Satrapi Vincent Paronnaud IRAN PUNK IS NOT DEAD

Persepolis (France / Iran): A coming-of-age story about a young, liberal, Iranian at the beginning of the strict Islamic revolution. Most reviews splurge on and on about how great this film looks – and this is true – but the biggest draw of Persepolis is the phenomenal story. It balances an interesting history of Iran, with the small-scale drama of how the regime affected individuals, free speech, feminism, art, culture… There are tragedies, shocks, and heart-warming humanity which make this an engrossing watch. TRAILER

Survive Style 5+ Vinnie Jones

Survive Style 5+ (Japan): it’s impossible to describe what this is like to watch – although this trailer should give you a rough idea. Imagine an intense dose of the West’s ‘crazy Japanese culture’ stereotype perception, but it just works! It’s five offbeat, stories set in a colourful, hyper-designed, pop-art, exotic, and garish world. It’s one of the maddest, most memorable, and most enjoyable films you’ll ever see. If you take cinema as a visual medium – this should be the holy text! The world needs more movies like this. A true one-of-a-kind – and I will be recommending this until the day I die. TRAILER

Headhunters Aksel Hennie Synnøve Macody Lund Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Jamie Lanister

Headhunters (Hodejegerne Norway): A NorwaySweden joint venture based on a Jo Nesbo book – it doesn’t get more Scandy than this. The film translates well up to the big screen as a very tense suspense-thriller that only lets up during moments of comically graphic violence and ultra black humour; which give the audience a few seconds to catch up with their breathing. It’s well-directed, well-acted, well-written, and a great example of a smart, serious, dramatic yet darkly comic crime caper. Better than the best bits of the (original) Dragon Tattoo movies. TRAILER

A Bittersweet Life Lee Byung-hun Kim Jee-woon

A Bittersweet Life (달콤한 인생, Dalkomhan insaeng – Korea): a loyal mob enforcer’s life is thrown into disarray when he refuses his bosses orders. This is a meticulously directed film where, although quite minimal, every single shot in reveals something else about the characters or keeps the story’s momentum going. The performances are strong, and the action scenes are intricate, innovative and flawlessly executed. It’s the second Korean revenge film on this list, but where OldBoy is unique, daring, and rich – A Bitterswet Life is simple, stripped down, raw, and emotive. TRAILER

JCVD Mabrouk El Mechri Jean-Claude Van Damme

JCVD (Belgium): the ultimate anti Jean-Claude Van Damme movie where he plays himself, in real life, during a bank robbery where he reflects on his career. Although it flirts with self-indulgence at times, Van Damme turns in a sensational performance that peaks with a 6-minute long single-cut soliloquy with his heart on his sleeve. It’s an Oscar-worthy show from a man who most people believe can’t even act – and makes you wish he’d been offered more A-list roles. Probably the least accessible film on the list, but you’ll get the most from this if you’ve seen – or care for – other JCVD movies.

Pans Labrynth Guillermo del Toro

Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno – Spain / Mexico): while most of Del Toro’s work contains an element of duality this one is split between two contrasting settings; the harsh reality of Franco’s Spain circa 1944, and a wild fantasy underground labyrinth. The film is eerie but seductive; violent but captivating; and contains some big emotional punches. One of the main reasons this works so well is Del Toro’s background in SFX – the physical effects and CGI are masterfully blended to create completely immersive, and non-distracting settings & characters. Like other true auteurs (Besson, Chan-Wook, Almodóvar, Noe, Jeunet…) you always know when you’re watching a Guillermo del Toro movie, and Pan’s Labyrinth is his masterpiece to date. TRAILER

Paprika Parade Full Satoshi Kon, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, Detective Toshimi Konakawa, Doctor Kōsaku Tokita, Doctor Toratarō Shima, Megumi Hayashibara, Tōru Furuya, Tōru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, 

Paprika (パプリカ, Papurika – Japan): a genuinely fearless animation that explores technology, mythology, reality, iconography, dreams, and the psyche. A 50/50 mix of breathtaking & vibrant visuals paired with thought-provoking concepts – you could show Paprika to an intellectual or a toddler, and they’d both be captivated for the duration. It put’s Hollywood’s ‘Cartoons are for kids lol’ attitude to shame, proving that you can do ‘Miyazaki for adults’. As the strapline proclaims: ‘This is your brain on Anime‘. Where can I buy this drug? I want more! TRAILER

Europa

Europa (Zentropa – Denmark): Before he was all about controversy and pushing everyone’s buttons Lars Von Trier actually started out as a promising straight up director. Part of his ‘Europa Trilogy’, Europa is LVT at his finest, employing 100 years of cinematic techniques to make this 1991 film feel like a 1930s Noir classic; told through fractured, surreal, and dreamlike visuals. While it’s not a weighty story, imagery is king here, and there are buckets of it – leaving you to wonder why he went in for Dogma, and hasn’t really shaken off that visual style since. TRAILER

Legend of the Drunkern Master 2

Drunken Master II (醉拳二, Zuì Quán Èr – Hong Kong): generally considered to be the one of the best Jackie Chan movies; and finishing with one of the greatest fight-scenes ever put to film, there’s a lot of grand claims that follow this picture. With a fairly weak plot, the film is completely defined by JC’s unique brand of entertaining slapstick, breathtaking, jaw-dropping, and highly innovative fight-choreography. He’s like Bruce Lee and Buster Keaton, but on better form than both here – mix it up with some unbelievably dangerous elements like fire-breathing, and hot coal stunts and you’re on to a winner. Most importantly, Drunken Master is great fun to watch. TRAILER

y tu mama tambien Diego Luna Gael García Bernal Maribel Verdú Alfonso Cuarón

Y Tu Mamá También (Mexico): Alfonso Cuaron is third director of the modern Mexican boys club (with Iñárritu and del Toro). Before the technical accomplishments of Gravity and Children of men, he made this indie-spirited, passionate, and fiery road-trip movie about love, loss, sexuality, and youth. All three leads are fantastic, but whereas the very young Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna went on to be Latino superstars, the female lead – Ana López Mercado – hasn’t worked since. A solid story, great performances set against a very interesting political background make this a genre-topping road trip to remember.  TRAILER

Ulrich Muhe The Lives Of Others

Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen – Germany): in the final throws of the GDR (East-Germany) a Stasi police officer has to spy on a writer and his lover, but slowly becomes immersed in their lives. The best thing about the intentionally slow pacing is that it gradually sucks you in, more and more, until you’re completely gripped. Ulrich Mühe steals the show with a dialogue-light, nuanced performance as officer HGW XX/7; going from a cold and by-the-book interrogation instructor, to a complex and divided human being. The other cast members, especially Sebastian Koch, put in stellar shifts too. On paper this sounds like a non-event, but it’s as solid a drama / thriller as you could ask for. TRAILER

Only Human Guillermo Toledo Marián Aguilera María Botto Fernando Ramallo

Only Human (Seres queridos – Spain-Argentina): a Jewish lady takes her new Palestinian partner to meet the family; naturally everyone’s dysfunctional. I know what you’re thinking: that sounds like Meet the Parents!? #LOL”. It’s absolutely not, because this is actually smart, witty, and laugh-out-loud funny. Although the story hinges on an intense political divide this film is as apolitical and innocent as they come – it almost feels like a ‘classic’ comedy; playing heavy on stereotypes, slapstick and some black comedy elements. My biggest complaint about Spanish cinema is that it’s usually over-dramatic, but it works perfectly in here. TRAILER

Which foreign film would you recommend for intermediates and why?

Please leave your film suggestions and reasons in the comments.
I’ll hopefully have enough to create a follow-up post – which would credit your entry and link back to your website.
Remember though, these are NOT the best foreign films per se, but the best ones for helping people explore the more interesting movies in world cinema.

Advertisements

Advice to aspiring (movie) bloggers.

For any readers thinking ‘this site is rubbish‘, ‘this guy knows nothing’, or ‘I’ve got loads of time to burn’, you may want to consider starting your own blog. The bottom line is that on WordPress it takes about 2 minutes, and it’s a brilliant way of making yourself feel important – “Yah, I run a Film Review website in my spare time, yah”. But before you dive at the deep end in – STOP! Think about the following…

TIme Lola Rennt Run LolaDo you have enough spare time? Writing, re-writing, editing, pictures, and posting takes longer than you’d think, but that’s only the first part. You should also be reading, linking, and commenting on similar sites. Movie bloggers should join the LAMB, participate in Blogathons, and after a while start your own blogathons… If you’re wanting a decent level of traffic and interaction, you have to invest a lot of time.

So you’ve convinced yourself you want to be a blogger? Before you register, the next two things will be the biggest factors in your blog’s future; so don’t rush them.

Heisenberg Say my name

It’s all in the name: ideally you want a unique and self-explanatory website title, with a matching URL. It also has to be memorable enough that fleeting visitors will be able to recall it and search for your site again. For me having “Film Reviews” in the title and URL works because it’s on several places in every page, which makes for some good SEO.

What’s your niche? Short articles? Long essays? Detailed analysis? Humour? Technical? Industry insider? Genre specific? Debate? A single country’s or region’s cinema? Pick a pigeonhole and stick to it. In my opinion, there are too many broad film review sites, all busting out generally similar reviews of the same films at the same time – the “one stop shop” market is packed. Pick a niche and fill the vacuum.

Once you’ve registered, here’s some more general advice gleaned from years with my nose stuck in the WP dashboard.

You’ve heard the hyperbolic cliché a bajillion times before; but content really is king. It’s your site: should be your content. There’s no point in regurgitating or aggregating stories & content from established movie news sites like IMDB / empire / SlashFilm… who themselves are constantly scanning studio, production and industry sites. Original articles, ideas, features, opinions and reviews will be why people tune in again and again.

Patience Baseball Great Escape

Be patient. Don’t worry about your first few months; unless you can log some serious hours it will take a while to find your stride, hone your own style and work out how to best layout your website, widgets and articles themselves. It can take years for your stats to truly snowball, and for your site to build up a loyal readership & subscribers.

Be critical, keep reading/re-reading your articles – looking for mistakes, and areas of improvement. Comb through your stats and find out what’s driving people to your site, and what else is keeping them there. It could be a particular franchise, actor, or catchphrase – once you know, write more about it.

Be honest; a lot of movie reviewers seem to ‘go with the flow’ and mark a film depending on how it’s generally received. Don’t worry about being the stick in the mud, tell it like you see it and readers will genuinely respect you more, comment more, read more…

Cinema Paradiso - Watch

Watch a film just before you review it: remember how awesome you thought a film was when you were ten years old, drunk or stoned? (You’re a legend if it’s all three) Watch it again to make sure it’s still good and funny!

Review the movie, don’t re-tell the entire plot. This is easily the biggest and most infuriating mistake of many ‘review’ sites – a sentence or two should cover the plot, any more and you’re probably in spoiler territory. If you write a couple of paragraphs about the story, you’re being a dick.

Use the wider WordPress community. As mentioned above, join an index site like the LAMB and participate in as much as you can. Seek out similar, but larger and more successful sites and leave meaningful comments & links there – don’t spam the same comment on every article about a particular topic.

Posting semi-regularly; is far better than bunching reviews together. Start aiming for 2-3 posts a week to keep people interested and coming back to your site. The ‘schedule’ feature in WP is great, use and abuse it!

Pictures - Bean Whistlers Mother

Pictures help: I went several years with no pictures, thinking short reviews were snappy enough. Now the site looks a lot slicker, and hits from image-specific search engines make up around 30% of all incoming traffic. Some pictures have more hits than the actual review of that movie.

Finally, some advice from one of Britain’s top film critics. The spectacularly quiffed Mark Kermode – as pointed out in his book The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex – lists five essential components to proper for any movie criticism (which applies to all writing)

  1. Opinion
  2. Description
  3. Contextualisation
  4. Analysis
  5. Entertainment.

Kermode The Good The Bad The Multiplex

keep-calm-and-get-to-the-choppa-49Most importantly, ENJOY BLOGGING This should be a fun hobby, not a chore. If you ever feel like you’re beginning to loathe writing, GET TO ZE CHOPPA and escape before it’s too late! It’s worth taking some time off to clear your head and put some good content together if you hit the wall.

If you’ve been mulling it over for a long time, the best advice I can give you is to start as soon as you can; you’ll wish you’d done it years ago.