Ten from another place

Thought I would express on here my love of foreign cinema, and although I don’t get to watch as much as I would like, there have been some real gems over the years.  It is sad whenever I mention foreign (or world) cinema to anyone who isn’t exactly a cinefile, they immediately say ‘Is it subtitled?’ to which my answer is normally ‘yes’ and their reaction is to be instantly put off.  It makes me sad.  However if such things don’t bother you all that much, then the list below has some good titles to check out…

Tell No One

tell no one

Based on the novel by Harlan Coben this mystery thriller follows the story of a Doctor mourning the death of his wife, who one day contacts him via email.  A great cat and mouse whodunit with ruthless villains and a storyline that keeps you guessing to the end.  A great on foot chase and superb use of U2’s ‘With Or Without You’.

Chung-king Express


Discovered this during my ‘have to watch everything Hong Kong related’ phase back in the 90’s.  Yet in complete contrast to the John Woo action movies I had become addicted to, this was a sweet love story about different people and how their lives have an effect on one another.  Beautifully filmed by cinematographer Christopher Doyle to clever, multi-layered direction by Wong Kar Wai.

Howl’s Moving Castle


Hayao Miyazaki … surely no need for explanation here.  I think this magical, highly imaginative fantasy based on the children’s book by Diana Wynne Jones and with glorious hand-drawn animation … is a joy.  I may even go as far as saying it’s my favourite Studio Ghibli movie, with a little less Japanese oddness compared to the more famed Spirited Away.



Stop reading this if you have seen the lacklustre remake ‘Quarantine’ starring that woman out of Dexter … this is a majorly scary, hand-held camera / found footage horror in the style of The Blair Witch Project but so much better.  Superb, fast-paced direction from Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza – the sequel is pretty awesome too.

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance


The second movie I had seen by acclaimed director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker), and making up the first part of his famed ‘vengeance trilogy’.  This harrowing tale of human organ trafficking, revenge and a deaf & dumb protagonist trying to save the life of his ill sister, is raw, very violent and powerful.  Made me think a lot afterwards about right and wrong etc.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Kind of an obvious one and in my opinion superior to the recent remake and also its two sequels.  A mystery involving a missing woman, a cool computer hacker with a troubled past and a disgraced journalist.  Excellent, career making turn from the wonderful Noomi Rapace.

Let The Right One In


Based on the controversial novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist and with superb, understated direction from Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), another that is superior to the remake and with a touching love story at it’s heart between two lost souls.  One of the finest horror movies of the last decade.

The Killer

the killer

The movie that put famed action director John Woo on the map.  Chow Yun Fat as a charming hitman who accidentally blinds a singer in a club during a hit.  Danny Lee is the tough cop out to catch him but discovers more than he expected.  Superb action sequences with Woo’s trademark slow-motion gunplay, and a touching story of guilt and redemption that went on to shape much of Woo’s career.

Betty Blue


One of my all time favourite foreign movies.  A tale of free-spirited Betty and her struggling-writer boyfriend during a wild road trip.  It’s French, its full of sex and nudity and became a cult favourite during the late eighties.  Béatrice Dalle is magnificent and extremely sexy in the lead role.

Pan’s Labyrinth

pan's labyrinth_edited

Guilermo Del Toro may be more known overseas as the man behind the Hellboy movies, but on his own turf he makes intelligent, often hauntingly beautiful movies most notably this acclaimed fantasy that crosses real world horrors of civil war with the imaginary world of a girl’s imagination.  Beautiful imagery, great special effects and strong performances makes this a true classic.

If you’re one of the crowd that just don’t do movies in a foreign language, can’t abide subtitles etc … I really urge you to give at least one of the titles above a day in court.  World Cinema can be braver, more daring and just as well made as anything from the states.

Those more than familiar with these types of movies … what are some of your favourites?  Any recommendations?  Leave your comments below…

Pacific Rim

Viewed – 13 July 2013  Cinema

I had been looking forward to this ever since I read director Guillermo Del Toro’s next project wasn’t going to be The Hobbit, but instead a movie about huge mechanized robots vs huge sea creatures.  Del Toro can do no wrong in my eyes, and his popular Hellboy movies not to mention Pan’s Labyrinth are proof of his talent and skill.  However what to expect from this latest offering, was less easy to anticipate.

Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy) plays Raleigh, a soldier who pilots one of these enormous robots alongside his brother to prevent the enormous Kaiju from destroying the world with their warpath of destruction.  From the off it seems like an impossible task, the power and sheer size of these creatures meaning the world must surely be doomed?   Yet after one confrontation claims the life of Raleigh’s brother the ‘Jaeger project’ is shut down, causing the soldiers to form a resistance in anticipation of another attack.  Lead by Idris Elba’s Commander Stacker, its not long before Raleigh is called back to the front line, where he befriends Japanese rookie Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) who is fighting her own demons resulting from the attacks.


This is a movie predominantly about big things laying the smack-down against big things, and its a (very) noisy, brash, intense and epic experience.  Del Toro paints the landscape with his expected style and exuberance, with fantastically shot encounters (no shaky cam here) and superb creature and robot designs.  Clearly one big homage to Japanese mech anime like Mobile Suit Gundam and Patlabor, as well as the many Godzilla movies the country has churned out over the years.  Casting is decent with the always effective Elba and a cameo from Ron (Hellboy) Perlman is always welcome.  However, leading man Hunnam has always been one of those pretty-boy actors whose overly sincere way of delivering lines comes off as wooden – he does look the part, there are just actors out there with more charisma.

Sadly this all masks what is essentially a very basic premise (something about an underwater rift that is glossed over in the movie’s opening minutes) and well, with sea creatures as the bad guys – we don’t have a villain of any real interest beyond their ability to knock over buildings.  Add to this two scientist who come across as particularly irritating (and no, are not funny), and for everything this movie does right (the look, the superb effects, the battles) it always seemed to do something wrong at the same time.  Del Toro has still delivered an event picture to really blow the blockbuster season out of the water, and I think at home I might be able to settle into its overwhelming bombast better – but as a cinema outing, I actually found it a bit much.

Verdict:  3 /5

What Guillermo did next…

Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favourite directors.  Responsible for such instant classics as Pans Labyrinth and Hellboy 2 … he was personally chosen by director Peter Jackson to helm the Hobbit movies.  Sadly production delays forced the Mexican born visionary to jump ship … and instead he has been working on this… lets call it Transformers meets Avatar meets The Abyss.

The Devil’s Backbone

Viewed – 01 March 2011  Blu-ray

I’m a big fan of Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro, the acclaimed director behind the Hellboy franchise as well as Pan’s Labyrinth and also this much respected ghost story.  With a backdrop of the Spanish civil war, a young boy arrives at a secluded Orphanage, which only months previous was witness to an unexploded bomb landing, now displayed, newly diffused in the centre of the courtyard.  The boy soon makes friends with the others, but also grabs the attention of the resident bully, who is determined to make his stay a rocky one.  Yet the Orphanage hides a dark secret, and during the night, the halls and dormitories are haunted by the ghost of a dead child.

Shot with Del Toro’s usual style and atmosphere, this slow burning but absorbing tale is thoroughly creepy even though for the most part it plays it safe when it comes to the shocks and scares.  Del Toro regular Frederico Luppi (Cronos) offers genuine screen presence suitably aided by a talented young cast including an excellent Fernando Tielve.   Edwardo Norwiega as the conflicted Jacinto is also perfectly sleazy.  I’ll admit the more political undertones went over my head, but certainly add some depth to proceedings, and the plight of the Orphanage occupants during impeding war and bloodshed made the supernatural elements all the more effective.  I did however have issues with how soon the ghost child appeared on screen, and also the ending came with more of a whimper than a raw, wrapping things up a little too neatly when I felt it should have gone for the jugular.

Compared to similar themed movies like El Orfanato and Pan’s Labyrinth, I came away less satisfied and overall a little disappointed.

Verdict:  3 /5