Recently Seen, Part 15 (April 2018)

Discussion in 'Cinema: International' started by divemaster13, Apr 3, 2018.

  1. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2017
    Messages:
    287
    Likes Received:
    63
    I watched several more of my recent DVD batch this weekend, so I'll get this month's thread started off.

    Miss Granny (2014): see separate thread

    Dance with the Wind (2004): A female undercover cop is tasked with investigating a dance-loving gigolo who gets lonely women to give him money. She also gets the dancing bug. She accepts the guy's offer to teach her and starts to wonder if he is truly a scamming gigolo or an innocent who forges real relationships where women are willing to help him out financially.

    I think @ebossert was of the opinion that the move was poorly written, or poorly plotted, and I agree. The slapstick moments weren't all that funny, the poignant moments weren't very moving, the romantic moments weren't very convincing, and for all the talk about wonderful dancing, the actors did a rather pedestrian job on the dance floor it seemed to me. Nothing you wouldn't see at any random gathering of folks out for a night of dancing.

    It wasn't terrible, and it did have its moments; just nothing to write home about.

    2 stars
     
  2. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2017
    Messages:
    287
    Likes Received:
    63
    Sori: Voice from the Heart (aka Robot Sori; aka Robot Sound) (2016)

    A secret-technology U.S. spy satellite that directs drone strikes in the Middle East becomes self-aware and regrets its role in the death of innocents. It crashes to earth in order to set things right and is picked up by a Korean fellow on a remote beach. The U.S. sends a retrieval team to Korea, but does not reveal the actual nature of the technology. The Koreans assign a young female scientist to assist the Americans.

    From that it seems like an espionage adventure or "rise of the A.I. machines" or something. There's a little of that, but the focus of the movie is the Korean fellow who found the satellite, which he dubbed "Sori." Sori looks and acts a lot like a little R2D2 unit, except that it speaks Korean and can't move around by itself and needs the fellow to cart it around. The fellow also needs Sori: 10 years earlier, his daughter went missing and is presumed dead from a subway fire. He is not convinced she is dead, and Sori's surveillance technology can pinpoint cell phone records and ID anyone on earth based on voice recognition. He uses Sori's technology to backtrack his daughter's final contacts and conversations, hoping against hope that he can find her.

    I really wanted to love this movie. It's the sort of thing that, if done well, is right in my wheelhouse. Unfortunately, I did not love this movie. It was "pretty good," but the whole purpose of a film like this is to be overcome with emotion. It's certainly not to relish in the technology of secret spy satellites or self-aware robots. I cared a bit about the dad's quest and the story was interesting (and rather unique), and I'm raising my initial 2.5 score a half point due to the movie tackling the subject of parental control and manipulation over their childrens' career choices (too many Korean parents berate or disown any child who dares to follow art or music rather than Doctor or Lawyer or "top university"). But I never felt moved. I looked at my watch a few times. Not a bad movie by any means, just nothing special.

    3 stars.
     
  3. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2017
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    114
    Old Stone (Lao shi) [2016] • China, Canada
    Directed by: Johnny Ma (A magnificent directing debut)
    9.49111/10

    Good golly miss molly. Gracious sakes alive Agnes! Where to begin with this little masterpiece? It's a bleak bleak indie film that somehow escaped the censors in the tradition of Black Coal, Thin Ice and The Looming Storm. If you liked those, get your butt on this one. Also, I happened to notice that one of the actresses/executive producers in/of this film, Nai An, "Founded with Ye Lou the film company Dream Factory". There is a little Ye Lou vibe to it, but mostly I just noticed the grainy look to the film that often shows up in Ye Lou films. It seems intentional because it's not pervasive and seems more prominent during well-lit outdoor scenes. Odd.

    Moving on. Remember two things: The best films from China are films about China; Endings are the hardest part.

    The synopsis at letterboxd is off. It has at least one fact wrong and synopisizes it out of order and importance, but does share a few details of the film.

    Remember that story from China some years ago about a truck driver who ran over a little baby while a bunch of people stood watching and did nothing ... and maybe the truck driver backed up and ran over it again (to make sure he killed it)? Old Stone starts off by recounting that story playing on a radio or TV station, and the film takes its inspiration from it. Assuming such incidents are accidents, it's better if the victim dies because if the victim lives the perpetrator is responsible for the victim's medical bills.

    Lao Shi is a taxi driver. One day, while driving, a drunken fare pulls on his arm and causes him to swerve into a guy on a scooter. Lao Shi calls the cops and an ambulance. When neither shows up after a period of time he decides to drive the victim to the hospital. This goes against Chinese "procedure", even though the victim would likely have died if he didn't get immediate medical attention. Oops! The insurance company won't cover it without a police report made at the scene before the victim is moved anywhere because -- how do they know the victim's injuries weren't sustained in the transportation to the hospital?

    The victim ends up in a coma for months and the taxi driver is responsible for the medical bills. Then there is more story and more plot.

    This is a smaller film than Black Coal, Thin Ice or The Looming Storm, but it's right up that alley. It succeeds on the amazing thespianship of Gang Chen as Lao Shi. I've never seen the guy before, but he pulls off the kind of perfect non-acting performance that I enjoy--like he's not acting in a film but simply caught on camera. Bravo!

    I've read a few people rolled their eyes at the ending. I thought it was poetry. There are striking similarities, almost plagiaristic, to the ending of The Looming Storm, and then something else happens which is what may have rolled some eyes. I loved it.
     
  4. ebossert

    ebossert Member: Rank 2

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    13
    Highly Recommended

    Double Life (2016) (Japanese Drama/Romance) – A philosophy graduate follows a man in her neighborhood in the name of “philosophical surveillance” research for her masters thesis. The man, it turns out, is having an affair. There’s something about this nerdy actress (Mugi Kadowaki) that is smoking hot (she made the same impression on me in “Love’s Whirlpool”). Her acting is “the real deal” too, so I consider her to be a talent to look out for in the future. This film is perhaps a bit too slow for mainstream viewers, but I found it quite interesting and anchored by a strong lead. It also avoids a descent into erotica, opting instead for a more dramatic handling of these topics.

    Dog in a Sidecar (2007) (Japanese Drama) (repeat viewing) – After her mother skips town, a little girl bonds with her father’s free spirited mistress. The title of the film is a metaphor for the girl’s dreams as she hangs out with her new maternal influence. Acting is top notch, with Yuko Takeuchi reminding me of a Japanese version of Karen Mok. The mood is mostly pleasant and the bonding between the leads is realistic and convincing. A very heart-warming film.

    Recommended

    Re:Born (2016) (Japanese Action) – A former special forces operative (Tak Sakaguchi) must destroy a legion of trained assassins. This film utilizes an unorthodox form of close quarters combat called “Zero Range Combat”, which emphasizes hand-to-hand fighting with knives. There is a lot of diversity and creativity in terms of the action choreography, and the physics is realistic (other than our hero’s ability to consistently dodge bullets). This is a fun action flick.

    Red Angel (1966) (Japanese War Drama/Romance) (repeat viewing) – Set in 1939 (during the Sino-Japanese war), a young nurse is sent to the field hospitals in China to assist doctors in treating severely wounded soldiers. This is a moderately violent movie (directed by Yasuzo Masumura) involving bloody surgery scenes, but it also has considerable emphasis on sensuality and romance amidst the carnage and disease. War is depicted here as physically and emotionally brutal. There’s a multi-faceted approach to its depiction of Japanese soldiers because it shows their depraved, animalistic misconduct as well as the horrific situation that has driven them to the brink of sanity. There’s one good battle sequence, but the intent is to impact the viewer on a dramatic level. Lead actress is solid.

    Permanent Nobara (2010) (Japanese Romance/Drama/Comedy) – A recently divorced 30-year-old single mother (Miho Kanno) moves back to her hometown with her daughter in tow. She begins reintegrating and starts a relationship with the local school teacher. This is essentially a movie about failed romance. It meanders around for a while on supporting characters (Eiko Koike, Chizuru Ikewaki), but it refocuses on the main character after that and gets much stronger on a dramatic level. A good movie, but not one of Daihachi Yoshida’s best.

    Devilman Crybaby (2018) (Japanese Anime Horror Television Series) – With demons reawakened and humanity in turmoil, a sensitive demon-boy is led into a brutal, degenerate war against evil by his mysterious friend, Ryo. There’s a bunch of nudity, sex, and graphic violence in this, along with demonic imagery and a few legitimately disturbing death scenes. Very cool synth score, and a bit of rapping by a few of the characters. Some weird and “out there” moments for sure. I enjoyed the animation despite it being rather unorthodox. Certainly one of the most offensive anime to come out in recent years, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s good. This is 10 episodes long, 26 minutes each.

    Darkest Hour (2017) (British/American War Drama) – During the early days of World War II, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who must decide whether to negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or fight on against incredible odds. This is a good all-around film, but I did not find it especially interesting or riveting. Gary Oldman is solid as usual.

    Not Recommended

    Justice League (2017) (American Action) – Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. First of all, I guess it’s too much to ask for a film with a $300 million budget to have great action sequences. The action in most superhero movies is basically a mix of CGI vomit coupled with characters getting repeatedly thrown thru walls. There is a good quantity of fights here, but its oddly tedious with very few cool or legitimately fun moments. In terms of story, scenes that should be impactful have little to no impact at all, and the characters/tone are an abrupt 180 from BvS. Ezra Miller is not funny at all here, Jason Momoa feels awkward, the villain is lame, and Gal Gadot makes lots of silly faces. There are also a few random conversations that don’t progress the story or conflict.

    The Insects Listed in the Encyclopedia (aka Deathfix: Die and Let Live) (2007) (Japanese Comedy) – A man is assigned the task of dying and reviving so he can write about it. This is a wacky unfocused comedy that is lacking in effectively funny moments. A disappointment by Satoshi Miki.

    Food and the Maiden (2010) (Japanese Drama) – This is a movie about people and food. Right up my alley, but it’s presented in a really boring way. Too much eating; not enough emphasis on food preparation or character interaction. Bleh.
     
  5. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2017
    Messages:
    682
    Likes Received:
    114
    You Were Never Really Here [2017] • UK, France, USA

    Finally! Finally! Jonny Greenwood plays his fucking guitar for a soundtrack. I might have punted this film if it weren't for the score. Well, maybe not. Joaquin Phoenix is uber-mesmerizing. The photography, its framing, its angles, is gorgeous. The sound design is astonishing in the way that it melds the cacophony of New York street noise into the score melodically and rhythmically. That blew me away.

    If all the interspersed dreams, hallucinations, memories--whatever they were-- were inserted more gracefully, more softly, I would have thought: "Okay, dream logic. Don't expect much, just let it flow over you. I'm cool with that". But they weren't. They were inserted bombastically, loudly. This gave the impression they were going to add up, they were going to mean something, be worthwhile. For me, they weren't. I don't care if the protag was or wasn't a war vet; if he had an incestuous relationship with his mother; if he was abused as a child. He was just a bad dude with a hammer who may or may not have rescued a little girl from pedophile politicians.

    Watch it loudly.
     
  6. ebossert

    ebossert Member: Rank 2

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Messages:
    96
    Likes Received:
    13
    Highly Recommended

    Before We Vanish (2017) (Japanese Drama/Comedy/Romance/Action) – In anticipation of their impending invasion, three aliens take control of three Japanese citizens and attempt to steal their “concepts.” This film has two storylines: (1) a salarywoman (Masami Nagasawa) is having trouble with her husband (Ryuhei Matsuda), who is exhibiting memory loss; and (2) a reporter agrees to be a local boy’s driver as they look for the teenage girl who murdered her family. This is a very creative, interesting, and unorthodox film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. I really enjoyed the genre-bending nature of it, which somehow works and feels natural within the storyline. There are a few hilarious moments, and even a few short action scenes involving a cute schoolgirl! The aliens use a mix of mesmerism and instant lobotomies to accomplish their goals. The ending will likely be divisive, but I think it helps to make the entire film make more sense. It takes balls to make a film this nutty. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

    Little Forest (2017) (Korean Drama) – A young woman gets tired of her difficult life in the city and moves back to her hometown in the countryside. There, she heals her emotional wounds with the help of her long-time friends, nature and food. This is based on the same manga that inspired the original Japanese films from 2014/2015. It begins in winter and continues across all four seasons as it showcases some lesser known Korean foods like spicy dough soup, fried cabbage, steamed rice and bean cake, Makgeolli, bracken, pasta and edible flowers, cabbage pancake, flower petal tempura, glazed chestnuts, etc. Tae-ri Kim is endearing in the lead role. So-ri Moon is also good in a supporting role. Not quite as intoxicating as the Japanese films, but it’s pretty damn close.

    Recommended

    The Third Murder (2017) (Japanese Drama/Mystery) – Twice-convicted killer Takashi Misumi (Koji Yakusho) who, shortly after his release from 30 years in prison, is arrested again on suspicion of committing yet another murder. He confesses to killing his boss at the food factory from where he was recently fired, but his defense attorney (Masaharu Fukuyama) is having doubts about what really happened. This is deliberately paced but proficiently directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. Parallels are drawn between the two leads and the criminal justice system is portrayed as a kind of “dog and pony show”, where the defendant is frequently pressured to admit his guilt instead of defend himself. Performances are top notch. (Viewed with poor subtitles.)

    The Housemaid (2016) (Vietnamese Horror) – Set in Vietnam during 1953, a young woman is hired as a housemaid at the mansion of a French officer on a plantation. Strange events begin to happen, which may be related to the officer’s dead wife and/or the spirits of dead workers. This is a beautifully shot film; the cinematography really makes the visuals pop – even in dimly lit scenes. The script focuses more on character relationships over ghostly mysteries, which is a good thing here. There are a few memorable horror sequences too. The ending is a bit convoluted, but it works. This feels, at times, more like a European horror film rather than an Asian horror film.

    Wind River (2017) (American Thriller/Drama) – A veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service helps to investigate the murder of a young Native American woman, and uses the case as a means of seeking redemption. This is a mean-spirited, depressing movie that is well-acted and directed. Not an interesting film per se, but it is emotionally impactful. Most of the town consists of rapists and degenerates with little to no characterization, but there are still some good character moments with other folk. Solid flick overall. The icy, snowy environments are nice too. However, the viewer should go into this expecting constant misery from start to finish.

    Thor: Ragnarok (2017) (American Action/Comedy) – Thor is imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, and must race against time to return to Asgard and stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his world, which is at the hands of the powerful and ruthless villain Hela. This film leaves a lot of room for improvement. Conflicts are flimsy and come from out of nowhere. The villain Hela is introduced as an extremely powerful adversary but is poorly developed and given very limited screentime. The entire middle hour on Sakaar meanders around and doesn’t really go anywhere. Some important events happen, but are portrayed in a matter-of-fact way that lessons their impact. Almost all of the big surprises were shown in the trailer. Probably a bit too jokey for its own good too, but it generally works in that regard. Fortunately, the casting is solid and the action (while nothing great) is good enough to be moderately entertaining. Soundtrack and score are cool too.

    Not Recommended

    The Prison (2017) (Korean Crime Drama/Action) – A troubled ex-cop is imprisoned for a hit-and-run accident, but he discovers that the entire penitentiary is controlled by an inmate who has been running a crime syndicate. This has very generic characters and conflicts. It’s simply not very interesting. Performances are good, but the fights are run-of-the-mill.

    Grave of the Fireflies (1988) (Japanese Anime Drama) (repeat viewing) – A boy tries to take care of his little sister in wartime. This film by Isao Takahata is easily one of the most overrated movies of all time. The opening scene immediately tells you the ending, which eliminates any kind of suspense or tension. Most of the runtime being dedicated to constantly beating the viewer over the head with one-note, simplistic, repetitive interaction between the characters. Most of its attempts at provoking emotion come off as low-hanging fruit. There’s really nothing interesting or impressive about the scriptwriting here, since it lacks any kind of nuance whatsoever. It may have worked as a short film, but as a 90-minute film, it just drags. Basically, the two kids eat, sleep, and walk around aimlessly. Wake me when it’s over.

    Psychokinesis (2018) (Korean Drama/Action) – After accidentally consuming meteorite liquids, a middle-aged man obtains superpowers and tries to protect his daughter from redevelopment company thugs. The script is very badly written, lacking in both details and depth. It fails miserably to earn its more serious moments. The character relationships are wafer thin and boring to watch. The action is cartoonish nonsense. Yu-mi Jung has a few great scenes in a supporting role, but not enough screentime to make that much of a difference. This is utter crap.
     
  7. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 3

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    27
    I really liked the rather idiosyncratic Japanese films, and cringed a little when I saw that there was a Korean version coming out. Glad to hear that it doesn't sully the memory of the original - I'm tempted to add it to the list, now.
     
  8. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 3

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2017
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    27
    I put up a review of Birdshot over on the Philippine Movie Thread, but I’m gonna mention it here too, ‘cause I reckon it’s really good and everyone should watch it and I think it might be widely available at the moment.
     
  9. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 4

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2017
    Messages:
    491
    Likes Received:
    24
    Guyz, why don't I receive IMDf e-mail notifications lately????

    I'll tag @ant-mac
     

Share This Page