The Straits Times recommends

Film Picks: The Handmaiden, Apprentice, Now You See Me 2 and more

Kim Min Hee (right) and Ha Jung Woo in The Handmaiden.
Kim Min Hee (right) and Ha Jung Woo in The Handmaiden.PHOTOS: SHAW ORGANISATION, GOLDEN VILLAGE

140 minutes/ 4 stars

One part Gothic fantasy, one part softcore thriller, this period drama blurs the line between highbrow and sexploitation.

Not that it matters. Celebrated South Korean film-maker Park Chan Wook (Oldboy, 2003) fills the frames with images so lush there is little time to ask if one form of titillation is more correct than another.

Set in 1930 Korea, then under Japanese occupation, pickpocket Sook Hee (ingenue Kim Tae Ri) fakes her identity to land the job of maid in the aristocratic family of Lady Hideko (Kim Min Hee).

Sook Hee's real task is to push Hideko into the arms of the gold-digger Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung Woo).

John Lui

130 minutes/ 3.5 stars

At the end of Now You See Me (2013), ex-magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) has been framed and placed behind bars by a group of illusionists calling themselves the Four Horsemen. In this sequel, Bradley is out for vengeance while the gang of four (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Lizzy Caplan) get entangled with tech magnate Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who has a hidden agenda.

There is quite a bit of plot to get through and a huge cast of characters to get to know.

Still, Now You See Me 2 is a zippy sequel that will please fans of the original magic-trick-flick-meets- crime-caper as it ups the ante on the illusion set pieces.

Boon Chan

96 minutes/ 3.5 stars

Singapore film-maker Boo Junfeng is interested in the shockwaves caused by historical trauma as they ripple through the present day. Young prison officer Aiman (Singapore actor Fir Rahman) lives with a stain on his family, causing an obsession with finding the truth.

When Aiman finds that a new posting puts him close to hangman Rahim (Malaysian film and television veteran Wan Hanafi Su, photo), that itch drives him to take risks. The same hunger - or is it ghoulish curiosity? - drives a wedge between him and his closest relative, sister Suhaila (Suria regular Mastura Ahmad).

This is how writer-director Boo gains access into the workings of death row and the fascinating character of Rahim, the man with the hand on the lever.

In this work, selected for the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival, Boo puts a human face on the abstract idea of capital punishment.

John Lui

106 minutes/ 3.5 stars

The world is stuck in the Industrial Revolution era when wood and coal are the main sources of power. When April's (Angela Galuppo) scientist parents are suddenly killed, she tries to carry on their research in secret in Paris, until she uncovers a much bigger conspiracy.

Marrying legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's fantastically weird inventions with Tintin creator Herge's ligne claire, or "clear line" drawing style, this story, taken from French comics artist Jacques Tardi's work, is as vividly told as it is beautiful to look at.

Not produced with a younger audience in mind, this work of animation is a complex and intelligent film that requires some understanding of history and science to be fully appreciated.

Yip Wai Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Film Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe