Movie review: Parasite
How far will you go to break away from poverty?
For the Kims, it means leeching on to a wealthy household, and how they manage that is rather ingenious.
The dark comedy-drama introduces us to the lower-class Kims, who live in a squalid basement. Father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho) is a loser who is constantly pushed around by wife Chung-sook (Jang Hye-jin).
Son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik) has failed his college entrance examinations several times, while street-smart daughter Ki-jung (Park So-dam) has given up on education.
Even though the Kims struggle to put food on the table, the family's attitude towards work is flippant. They cannot even be bothered to fold pizza boxes properly - and that job was their only source of income.
It is funny seeing how the freeloaders tap on free Wi-Fi and even tolerate hazardous fumes from a public fumigation just to get rid of the pesky parasites in their bug-infested home.
The Kims become parasites themselves when Ki-woo lands a job as an English tutor to the Parks' teen daughter Da-hye (Jung Ziso).
When he realises how gullible Mrs Park (Cho Yeo-jeong) is, it does not take long for Ki-woo to realise the Parks are the ideal meal tickets, and he soon gets his sister hired as an art tutor to the Parks' youngest son Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun).
How the children get their parents hired as chauffeur and housekeeper is ingenious and yet callous.
Director Bong Joon-ho, as seen in his past works such as The Host and Snowpiercer, is known for depicting society's class divides.
Here, the gaps are shown in striking parallels - the Parks' house on the hill versus the Kims' flood-zone basement, where the Kims eat stale bread while the Parks cart home trolley-loads of food. Credit goes to Bong for not painting the Kims as victims though.
Much hilarity stems from how they pull off the cons, and it is also heartwarming that the Kim family is such a tight-knit unit and the parents are actually proud of their children's entrepreneurial schemes.
Mr and Mrs Park, genuinely nice and charming, are no villains either. The real bad guy here is society itself.
Funny, real, gritty and well-supported by a solid cast, the Palme d'Or winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival is a breath of fresh air after the onslaught of Hollywood blockbusters. - 4.5 Ticks
STARRING: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-sik, Park So-dam, Jang Hye-jin, Jo Yeo-jeong, Lee Sun-kyun
DIRECTOR: Bong Joon-ho
THE SKINNY: The story revolves around two families at opposite poles. The Kims are poor, jobless and will do anything to survive, while the Parks are the rich people oblivious to the fact that the Kims are trying to weasel their way into their household.
Movie reviews: Anna, Kingdom
This action thriller tells the story of the titular Russian woman (Sasha Luss) who escapes poverty by becoming a spy, before attempting to escape the world of espionage.
The character brings a sense of beauty and poise to the brutal world we are presented with, while the film delivers some great action, having been directed, produced and written by Luc Besson.
Unfortunately, Anna peaks a quarter of the way through, with a dining room fight straight out of 2014's Kingsman: The Secret Service. The narrative structure is hit-and-miss, with its heavy use of non-linear storytelling and flashbacks. Sometimes it is used to great effect for twists, other times it feels wholly unnecessary and convoluted.
Despite its flaws and some LGBT representation that eventually falls flat, Anna can still be an entertaining and titillating experience for those who just want to switch their brains off. - JOHN TAN - 2.5 Ticks
Set in the Qin Dynasty during the warring states period in ancient China, this Japanese adaptation of the manga series of the same name follows war orphan Shin (Kento Yamazaki) as he meets deposed king Eisei (Ryo Yoshizawa).
Together, they work with a colourful cast of characters - including a beautiful mountain tribe chieftain (Masami Nagasawa) - to reclaim Eisei's throne.
Kingdom is effectively a comic book movie, with all the pomp and bombast we have come to expect. Showcasing a dash of Hong Kong gongfu moves and realistic swordplay, it is a fun adventure boasting tight action and engaging set pieces.
However, Shin - whose dream of being the greatest general leads to him being loud and hotheaded - becomes grating as the film progresses.
The third act comprises a long, extended battle as the protagonists storm the palace, which is enjoyable for fans of that kind of thing. - JOHN TAN -3.5 Ticks