SINGAPORE – The two best movies this week come from Asian neighbours, but the subject matter could not be more different: One is a fun zombie romp, the other a serious depiction of a battle celebrated in Chinese history.
In South Korea, zombies do not fool around. As the sleeper hit Train To Busan (2016) showed, the undead there are fast and crafty, unlike the shuffling hordes seen in American films.
#Alive (M18, 98 minutes, Netflix, 4 stars) sticks to the South Korean tradition of hyperactive zombies. They will need to be to make a meal of Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in), a video-game addict who finds himself alone in his apartment when the apocalypse strikes.
What follows is a uniquely Korean version of survivor format: We have seen Americans making forts of supermarkets, malls and Mexican bars to fend off monsters. Often, guns – usually many – are involved.
But in this near-perfect blend of satire of survival drama, the lonely and petrified gamer must now play a version of the game in which the player explores the surroundings while picking up makeshift weapons, tools and food.
Who knew that zombie films could be as inventive and nerve-wracking as this, despite there not being a dozen characters with backstories to care about?
The hordes coming for the heroes in The Eight Hundred (NC16, 149 minutes, opens Sept 10, 3.5 stars) are Japanese troops intent on eliminating a stubborn pocket of resistance.
This is an obviously patriotic reenactment of events, but then which war movie is not? Lone Survivor (2013), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and American Sniper (2014) are all deeply patriotic, but in a manner that feels comfortable and easier to digest.
That lesson – show, don't tell – has not been lost on the makers of this drama re-enacting a pivotal moment in Chinese history.
Near the end of 1937, a decision was made by the Chinese military to make a stand at the Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai, following months of humiliating defeats at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.
The film's title refers to the name eventually given to the men and women involved in the fight.
This action-oriented ensemble piece features powerful performances from actors like Wang Qianyuan and Jiang Wu, who play country folk asking if they are suckers for sticking around to fight when others have fled.
It serves as a big-budget corrective to myths about war generated by Western cinema, such as the idea that Asians stood by to watch while Westerners fight their battles.
As the film reveals, from 1931 to 1945, Japan's brutal slog across China soaked up more than half its total troop strength, with many battles being standoffs like the one at the Sihang Warehouse.
Like that battle, the events in the classic 1911 children's book The Secret Garden have been adapted for the screen several times.
The latest attempt, The Secret Garden (PG, 100 mRead More – Source[contf] [contfnew]