Recently Seen, Part 13 (February 2018)

Discussion in 'Cinema: International' started by sitenoise, Feb 1, 2018.

  1. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    Gyeongju [2014] (Love Cafe) • South Korea
    Director: Lu Zhang (of A Quiet Dream fame)
    5.83/10

    Director Zhang is a Chinese born Korean. Gyeongju, like A Quiet Dream, centers on a cross cultural character. Choi Hyun, a Korean, teaches at Peking University and is married to a Chinese woman. He returns to Korea to attend a funeral and decides to spend a day hanging around in the city of Gyeongju where he remembers a tea house he visited seven years ago had an "erotic folk art" painting on the wall.

    The main theme of the film seems to be 'life goes on', things change, you can't go home, etc.

    The tea house has since been taken over by someone new, Gong Yoon-hee, (a Korean who is a 78th descendant of Confucius--or something like that, which has no real import on the story, it's just more cross-cultural seasoning). The meat of the film is the relationship that develops between Choi and Gong (who wallpapered over the erotic art piece). They enjoy moments of silence together, long walks, and drinking tea.

    The problem with the film is that all of the other characters suck. The first other character introduced performed bad eating-acting so grotesquely I almost punted the film. Next is a downer ex-fling who makes no sense in the film (except to say once again: "you can't go back"). Then there's a drunk professor who anyone in their right mind should fast-forward through like I did. And a jealous cop.

    The film is almost 2 1/2 hours long and the other characters take up less than an hour of material. They should have been cut. The film is predominantly a Before Sunrise kind of meet and greet, and that part of it is lovely. It could have been 90 minutes of bliss. Doing nothing.

    I'm not familiar with Korean cuisine, but I understand Chinese is all about the balance of salty and sweet.

    At one point Choi listens to a voice message from his Chinese wife and it made me sad there are no little film's like this coming from China. Oh syrupy sweet Mandarin.

    I enjoyed this Korean couple, and their tempo, a lot. I wish there was a version of the film that eliminated the disruptive characters, especially the drunk professor, the jealous cop, and the ex-fling whose screen time was bitchy and her existence (mostly) at odds with the rest of our picture of Choi. Too much salt.
     
  2. ebossert

    ebossert Member: Rank 3

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    I enjoyed this one a bit more than you did. With that said, I could watch Min-ah Shin do laundry and be entertained.
     
  3. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    Me too. And I thought Hae-il Park was pitch perfect for his role. Everybody else "get out of the way"!
     
  4. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Thanks for the warning. biggrin.gif Sounds just like the ingredients of a sitenoise movie. I do like the idea of a cross-cultural concept though, so I'll give A Quiet Dream a try. There's a copy of it on my convenience store. This, on the other hand, I might not. That quote from you read side by side with the 2 1/2 runtime is enough to make me run for the hills.
     
  5. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    I do that on purpose, so you'll know lol1.gif . This one's not for you. I was excited to explore more from this director, but Gyeongju didn't light my sparklers like A Quiet Dream--which I think you'll like, a little, kinda, maybe. It's a unique film, if nothing else. I think you'll at least like the scene of them walking down the street and dancing to their reflection.
     
  6. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Hehe thanks! Your enthusiasm for the director was very apparent but its a bummer that Love Cafe didn't live up to A Quiet Dream standards. I do like some scenes where there's some tranquility, and picturing someone walking down the street on a quiet night and dancing on their reflection is something I like. I look forward to that. (Well, not really to the movie much, but if and when @divemaster13 gives his scheduled viewing, I'll be able to finally watch it and understand what you guys have been talking about.
     
  7. ebossert

    ebossert Member: Rank 3

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    Highly Recommended

    Crush and Blush (2008) (Korean Romantic Comedy) (repeat viewing) – An oddball female teacher and a teen schoolgirl scheme to take down her father’s potential mistress. Sharply intelligent, emotionally bitter, and undeniably quirky, this rom com successfully avoids most genre conventions. Hyo-jin Kong portrays the fairly unbalanced teacher in a very human, realistic way and the relationship between the two leads is nicely developed over the course of the film, emphasizing their similar plights as social outcasts. The comedy is also excellent, showcasing some fantastic exchanges of dialogue and virtually no slapstick.

    Woman in the Dunes (1964) (Japanese Drama) (repeat viewing) – An entymologist becomes stranded in a sand dune with a woman and forced to live there by local villagers in this film by Hiroshi Teshigahara. The most obvious compliment to be made is with regards to the sandscapes, which are captured with fantastic camerawork. The sand itself does not merely act as a background environment, but it exists as an omnipresent force that’s both beautiful and dangerous. (Even the usually irritating camera close-ups of human body parts is valuable here to show how the sand invades even the smallest crevaces.) One particular shot of the woman sleeping is outstanding. The characters are involving, the acting is good, and the scenario is attention-grabbing.

    Wicked City (1987) (Japanese Anime Action/Thriller) (repeat viewing) – Two special agents (a human and a demon woman) join forces to protect a missionary who is scheduled to attend a treaty ceremony between the human and demon worlds. The spiderwoman, the putty woman, and the rock man were all cool, but the final fight against the tentacle dude was sweet. Some of the character designs are pretty freaky, especially the spiderwoman. The plot developments were also interesting. There is also a ton of nudity and sexual content (including rape), but it serves a purpose within the dynamics of the world in which the film takes place. An atmospheric, entertaining anime.

    Fight My Way (2017) (Korean Romantic Comedy Television Series) – A former taekwondo prodigy begins to have romantic feelings for his long-time friend (Ji-won Kim). Meanwhile, their two friends (who have been in a romantic relationship for over 6 years) hit a rocky patch and start to question their compatability. In addition to the romantic comedy elements, the script also focuses on the pressures of paving the way for personal success and balancing that success with personal relationships. This is a very entertaining K-drama (16 episodes, 60 minutes each) that solidifies the fact that Ji-won Kim is one of the most charismatic young actresses working today.

    Under the Flag of the Rising Sun (1972) (Japanese War Drama) (repeat viewing) – A woman seeks the truth behind her husband’s court martial and subsequent execution at the close of World War II. She interviews a small handful of soldiers who tell of their grim experiences. Kinji Fukasaku directs this quality film that should impress most viewers with its narrative structure (which involves multiple, contradicting accounts) as well as its dark, disturbing recreations of battleground suffering.

    Recommended

    Battle Angel (aka Gunnm) (1993) (Japanese Anime Action Short) (repeat viewing) – A cyborg doctor unearths and repairs a little cyborg girl who just so happens to have some serious butt-kicking ability. She battles against killer cyborgs. This anime (2 OVAs, 45 minutes long total – excluding 10 minutes of credits) has some very cool action sequences, as well as some bloody, graphic violence (even some little kids bite the dust!). Some of the character interaction is good too. Story feels a bit condensed though, and the animation quality is merely good.

    Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017) (British Action) – When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, the Kingsman's journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US. This begins with a lengthy car chase shootout that is a lot of fun, but that’s the best part of the entire film. The story meanders too much during the middle section, which creates pacing problems and dull filler. There’s simply no sense of urgency or excitement. There’s too much emphasis on Eggsy’s girlfriend and one character’s amnesia, both of which are quite frankly boring plotlines. Still, the actors are lively and seem to be having fun. The final fight comes off as more silly than exciting, however. This is watchable fluff that is a step down from its predecessor.

    Not Recommended

    Animal Kingdom (2010) (Australian Crime Drama) – A seventeen year-old navigates his survival amongst an explosive criminal family that has waged war against the police. Long story short: this movie does a piss poor job of making the viewer care about any of the characters (or at the very least, make the characters interesting to watch). I was rooting for all of them to die within the first 10 minutes of the film. The lead protagonist is also very boring and not acted well. The final half hour drags badly. Guy Pierce shows up for a few minutes. Good score though.
     
  8. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 3

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    Crush and Blush should have more recognition than I think it gets - it deserves to be in the cult classic canon.
    I liked Animal Kingdom, but I was surprised when it started to be critically embraced outside of Australia - I had thought of it as something that probably wouldn't translate well.
     
  9. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    I need to watch Crush and Blush again. I've got it sitting on my shelf. I recall being disappointed and did not rate it highly. But that was March 2009. Perhaps time and a re-watch will give me a different perspective.

    I thought Woman in the Dunes was very very good.
     
  10. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    I'll add another up-vote for Crush and Blush. It's one of those crimes against nature that a film so smart and intelligently funny starring one of Korea's best actresses can't also be popular. sigh
    score11.jpg
     
  11. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    I've started watching M as per @sitenoise recommendation to all of us but my limited searching options only give out either a grainy, incomplete copy or an HD copy without subs. I've seen almost half of the film and I can say that if the film maintains or even surpasses the beauty it exuded in the first half, sitenoise has all the right to call this a beautiful film. I think the film deserves to be seen in its entirety, in HD and with subs. That's why I decided to stop because I don't think I can do it justice by watching it with almost 30 or so minutes missing. It probably says something when I was impressed even by the snippets, cut-paste thing I did to get through what I've seen. What more if what you have is a legit copy. To @divemaster13: I think this is a good buy. I will try to expand more (or just wait for a miracle) to be able to find a clean copy without having to spend much. But I can say, this is a good call sitenoise. This is a must-see.
     
  12. ebossert

    ebossert Member: Rank 3

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    Highly Recommended

    Take Me Home (2016) (Thai Horror) – A young man with amnesia successfully finds his family and moves into their huge house, but his sister exhibits some odd behavior and our protagonist begins seeing strange things. The scares in this film are very strong. It truly creates a sense of unease that contributes a few legitimately surprising and intense scenarios. The scriptwriting is tight as well, with our protagonist thrown into situations that have no easy solution. In terms of pacing, it’s a bit slow at the start, but the story and mystery ramp up near the mid-point and are very engrossing. This is a proficiently made film with solid acting and direction. Sound design is also fantastic. The viewer should also pay attention to the details because the ending is a bit confusing and will likely require multiple viewings. This is probably the best Thai horror film from the 2010s so far.

    Dunkirk (2017) (British/American War Thriller) – Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German Army, and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. This is a very well-made film that relies on visual storytelling and minimal dialogue to move things along. As we follow the characters, the viewer definitely gets a sense of desperation in their many attempts to escape the beach. There’s a feeling of realism as well. Camerawork and framing of shots are fantastic, especially during the aerial dogfights. Christopher Nolan rebounds very nicely after the disappointing “Interstellar.” Heck, even the hit-or-miss Hans Zimmer gives us a solid score here, which is supplemented with fantastic sound design and editing.

    Black Kiss (aka Synchronicity) (2004) (Japanese Thriller) (repeat viewing) – A model (Reika Hashimoto) witnesses a murder that may be tied to her roommate’s past. This is a very stylish film. The camerawork and framing of shots beautifully capture the urban lighting and streets of Tokyo. Score and sound design are top notch. The death scenes are not explicitly shown, but the killer’s imaginative flair for creating bravura artistry of the corpses is shown to great effect and gets more bizarre as the film progresses. The conclusion makes perfect sense (see the director’s detailed explanation on the DVD) and is a bit weird in its own right. Regardless of its 2-hour running time, this stays engaging with a well-written mystery. Some have likened this film to Italian Gialli of the 1960s and 70s, and there are some similarities. A few moments are over-the-top and unrealistic, but they add a certain charm.

    Recommended

    Painted Skin (2008) (Chinese Drama/Romance Action) (repeat viewing) – A wife (Zhao Wei) tries to stop a fox spirit (Zhou Xun) from seducing her husband while a warrior (Donnie Yen) attempts to stop a murdering demon. Unlike most recent historical pieces that wallow in overdramatic “epicness”, this has the feel of a lower budget and benefits accordingly as its focus is more on establishing conflict and characters. There’s also some nuance and multi-dimensionality, both in terms of how the fox spirit interacts with the humans, as well as how the plot unfolds and how each character contributes to the finale. Both actresses are amongst the best in the world and help to make this worth watching.

    Painted Skin 2: The Resurrection (2012) (Chinese Fantasy Drama/Romance Action) (repeat viewing) – After a 500-year slumber, a fox spirit (Zhou Xun) is released from her icy prison and seeks to manipulate a princess (Zhao Wei) into purposefully giving her heart away. Reminiscent of “Green Snake” and “A Chinese Ghost Story” because the overall mood is hypnotic and calming. Zhou Xun adds another excellent performance to her career as she nails the ghostly, sensuous demon spot on. Characters are well-defined, with even more nuance and multi-dimensionality than its predecessors.

    Buppha Rahtree: Haunting In Japan (2016) (Thai Horror/Comedy) – In the middle of a white winter, a group of young Thai men visit the countryside in Japan to shoot a music video. Unfortunately for them, the house is haunted by several ghosts. Same director as the original Rahtree film, as well as some of the sequels. It has that odd blend of horror and comedy that he has a knack for. There’s a certain intensity and creepiness to this that most viewers will not expect, but there are also a few laugh-out-loud moments (one of which is an answer to the question, “Am I Dead?”). The humor does get a bit goofy, but it works. The winter setting provides atmosphere for sure.

    Painted Skin (1993) (Chinese Fantasy Drama/Horror Action) – A scholar (played by Adam Cheng) encounters a beautiful maiden (played by Joey Wong) in an alley on his way home and leads her to his house, not knowing that she is a ghost who is fleeing from an evil Yin-Yang king. This film is more straight-forward than its successors in the Painted Skin franchise, but it has a good overall quality and some atmosphere too. Special effects are practical and effective.

    Not Recommended

    The Noise (2015) (Malaysian Horror) – A newly married couple moves into an old house located in the suburbs, but it will soon become their nightmare. And that becomes evident when the man hears lots of weird noises. This is the most generic premise ever. In terms of positives, the performances and direction are pretty good. There is also a bit of effective atmosphere, but the scares are not good and the interaction with the ghosts is also very lame. Sound design is over-accentuated to emphasize noise, but it’s too loud, abrasive and in your face. The twist is thoughtless, cliched crap that we’ve seen a million times before.

    The Demon (2016) (Mongolian Horror) – A group of friends go to an abandoned house to hold a wild New Years Eve bash, which gets unexpectedly bloody as they realize that the house they’ve chosen as their party venue is haunted by a demon. Only 71 minutes long, but it moves very slowly and takes forever to get going. It’s simply boring to watch and very painful to sit thru. Locations are extremely limited and bland. Lighting is drab and sleep-inducing. This is an abject failure in terms of entertainment value.

    Bottom of the Barrel

    Supernatural Events On Campus (2013) (Chinese Horror) (repeat viewing) – A college girl finds a room in a decrepit mansion/hotel and experiences a plethora of bizarre occurrences that might have something to do with the campus’s history. One of the big problems with this movie is the lead actress, who contributes one of the worst performances of the last decade. The story is boring and moves very slowly. Practically every single horror sequence is purely incompetent. The multiple twist endings are really, really lame and the finale is so incomprehensibly stupid that it’s impossible to accurately describe.
     
  13. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    Maybe give it another shot lollegs.gif

    Funny, I was just looking through old flicks I've watched and came across Black Kiss (aka Synchronicity) (2004) (Japanese Thriller). I couldn't remember a thing about it so I popped it on. It does have a fantastic look about it. I remembered that part but couldn't remember the story. I think I'm confusing it with another flick called Red Kiss or something that had some supernatural aspects to it. I can't think of it and it's driving me crazy crazylagu.gif
     
  14. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    Tragically, the film never got a Bluray release. I think I have a copy somewhere I could put up on wetransfer.com if that works for you. The copy I have handy is too big but I'm pretty sure I have a smaller copy on some old hard drive. I'll look around
     
  15. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    @sitenoise

    Thanks! Don't exert too much effort on it though, you can do it when you're really really bored and got nothing to do and you want to be a good samaritan. Hehe. If its too tedious or requires much effort and time, don't bother. I can live with seeing almost half of the film and really liking it.

    I don't like bothering other people.
     
  16. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Take Me Home sounds good...I'll look for it asap.
     
  17. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    I want to do it. I recently (months ago, actually) moved and things are packed up in boxes. This will give me motivation to unpack a little bit.

    I'm watching it again right now. One thing about it that I never heard anyone talk about is what an absolutely adorable little love story it is, kind of. It's not a romance, though, and "story" is tough word to ascribe to it, but the couple is sooooooo cute (most of the time) it kills me--especially in the past.
     
  18. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Yeah I also found them cute but I was reserving a bit because I didn't know how they would pan out in the end. I wanted to make a love story out of them but as I said, I was reserved as I did not know what was the ending up to. Lee Yeon-hee is adorable and weird Mr. M, Kang Dong-won make a good match (from what I've seen so far).
     
  19. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (Singwa hamgge) [2017] • South Korea

    Very funny!

    Oh that Korean humor we've come to know and love ... that they are now ripping off from Hollywood superhero flicks. Anyone who still thinks Korea does formulaic Hollywood crap better than Hollywood is in denial. I'm on my third try and can't even get halfway through this Buddhist Dante's Inferno kind of thing. The hero faces 7 trials in the afterlife. Each one starts out bad for him and then ... whaddaya know! There was a misunderstanding and they all turn out good for him! Wow! Didn't see that coming. Even Jung-woo Ha in a Matrix overcoat can't rise above a Ryan Gosling poser. The CGI in this thing amounts to blurring the camera a little bit. The Koreans are eating this up over there. We're doomed if the Korean Harvey Weinsteins don't get out of the way and let film makers make films.

    I'm angry grr.gif
     
  20. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    I remember the first Korean movie that disappointed me as being just the same as Hollywood crap. Up until this movie, I enjoyed the special "Korean-ess" of their audience-pleasing genres. Silly romantic comedy? Sure, but somehow a silly Korean rom-com was watchable and fun, whereas a Hollywood one might be tedious. Korean horror? Might be good, or might be lame, but one thing it was not was Hollywood same-old-same old. Korean comedy turned melodrama? Has to be Korean b/c I don't think Hollywood makes these at all. Etc.

    Until I watched Tube. A little piece of me died that day as I realized the Koreans were capable of making a generic, formulaic crap action movie that was nothing more than a clone of a by-the-numbers Hollywood film.
     

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