Recently seen, part 25 (February 2019)

Discussion in 'Cinema: International' started by clayton-12, Feb 3, 2019.

  1. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    When The Raid was released in 2011/2012, the general consensus seemed to be that it was a game-changer for martial arts action films. I guess one measure of its influence is in the fact that 5 or 6 years later, there’s films coming out that draw immediate and very obvious comparisons to The Raid’s basic blueprint.

    Jailbreak is a 2017 Cambodian film which, like its prototype, was directed by an ex-pat – apparently an Italian dude who goes by the name of Jimmy Henderson (??!). A dandy member of otherwise all-female criminal syndicate, the Butterfly Gang, has been arrested and promises to spill the beans on his cohorts. A SWAT team is tasked with escorting him to a cell in prison pending a plea bargain or something, but once they reach the middle, all hell breaks loose, and our heroes must fight their way out. The fighting here is impressively choreographed, with fluid camerawork that often roams around following multiple characters in seemingly single takes. It’s hard to criticise the film for being a rip-off when it makes no pretence of taking itself seriously, with liberal doses of camp humour spread throughout – I wonder what the lever marked #666 will do? Oh no, it opens the doors to cells where they keep the superhuman-strength cannibals! The leader of the Butterfly Gang, who sashays into the locked-down prison through clouds of teargas wearing skintight leather and stilettos, is an ahem actress by the name of Celine Tran (some wag commented on a youtube video “This isn’t the first time she’s taken on a roomful of guys”), and MMA fighter Dara Our shows that she’s got the charisma for a career in film. This is well worth checking out, if you like this kind of thing.

    BuyBust (Erik Matti, 2018) is the Philippines entry into the fray. A SWAT team is sent deep into a maze-like impoverished barangay to arrest a drug kingpin, but when things go belly up, they find themselves trapped and fighting for their lives against the gang and the residents. While the basic plot template is there, this film doesn’t rely entirely on relentless action sequences coming at you one after another, but rather builds something of an atmosphere and suspense by having the protagonists secure ground before stepping into the next melee. Less successful were the attempts to insert comic elements into the film – whereas Jailbreak revelled in its absurdity and never took itself seriously, BuyBust kind of wanted to have a bet both ways. I liked Anne Curtis here, and thought she acquitted herself well - I never realised she’s been in other films, having only seen her before on daytime variety TV. It’s not a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, but given the pedigree, I thought it was a little bit underwhelming.
     
  2. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    To be honest, The Raid didn't occur to me when I watched this (maybe because I've forgotten about it) but when I read the write-ups and somehow I was reminded of how the film went, I can see why some called this a The Raid rip-off. Probably, an "influence" would be a better term.

    Anne Curtis has been touted to be one of the country's most "established" or "best" actresses of today, the accuracy of which I can't really attest to. I've seen her act in a few series and movies (I've totally forgotten about them now) but one thing really rang on me: she can't act. With Buybust, she was lucky to have had just a few acting chops but needed more physical fight scenes, one which she can fully portray as she regularly does work-outs.

    She had an MMFF entry last December and I was planning to watch it but as with my usual plans, it gets swept under the rug. Its entitled Aurora, a film about one of the sea tragedies (I think it was MV Dona Paz) with the most casualties. From the trailer I don't think the focus was on the tragedy, but rather on her quest to find the bodies of the casualties and feeling their souls.



    By the way, I watched Le Havre (2011) and I really……can’t with Aki. His style…..I can’t. Too much choreographed acting. I finished it, though.
     
  3. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    When read slowly in a monotone, with a stiff back and expressionless face, these sentences capture Kaurismaki's style perfectly!
    I've been a fan since Leningrad Cowboys Go America, but his films are really a cinema version of balut ... if you don't love them, then you won't be able to stomach them.
     
  4. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Hahahaha!!! So true!!!! Sadly, the balut comparison is much more enjoyable than the experience I had with Le Havre. sad5.gif Hey have you tasted balut? I like it.
     
  5. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    I haven't had the ... umm ... pleasure. Just the thought is enough to turn me vegetarian.
     
    • Love it! Love it! x 1
  6. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    The Vanished [2018] • South Korea
    THRILLER

    This is one of those Korean films where they do everything that's been done before and just do it really well. Every plot point, every twist, been there, done that. And even though they are obvious after they happen, you really don't see them coming. Or you might, but it's still pretty cool.

    "I killed my wife and her body disappeared"

    "A detective investigates the disappearance of a woman’s corpse from a morgue and tries to uncover the cause of her death."

    That's the tagline and the blurb. Can't really say anything more without spoiling. My only complaint is with the character of the wife. Just too icky of the stereotype.

    If you like mystery thriller type movies this is a good one from Korea.
     
  7. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    ^I've been meaning to watch it too because thriller. I'll watch it soon.
     
  8. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    Ooooh, this does sound good!
     
  9. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    Extreme Job (2019)

    This movie just opened in Korea last month, with a concurrent release in some U.S. theaters. For example, a cinema about 20 minutes from my house. So my wife and I went to see it last night.

    Pretty good action comedy about a team of inept detectives staking out a gangster's lair. Their stakeout point is the fried chicken restaurant across the street, which the gangsters order from regularly. If only the detectives could pose as chicken delivery people, they could get into the gangster's place and hide bugs and stuff. Due to some convoluted events, the police detectives end up buying the chicken restaurant (unbeknownst to their department) and becoming a national sensation, in ways both good and bad. Since they are about to all get fired from the police force, making money cooking chicken might not be so bad.

    But then they screw that up too.

    Like a lot of Korean comedies, it leans a lot towards silliness and slapstick. I find much of that too broad for my tastes, and would prefer a more subtle or clever approach. But I did laugh out loud more than a few of times, and the other folks in the theater (all Korean, as far as I could tell) laughed more than I did. Probably due to understanding the spoken language and the nuances of Korean society and comedy better than me.

    My wife really liked it as a comedy, although she shut her eyes toward the end, which was basically 30 minutes of cops and gangsters beating each other with sticks and muay thai / judo fighting.

    A good enough movie that I didn't regret the $28 price tag for 2 tickets, but not one I'd pick up the DVD for. And after the movie I was so hungry for Korean-style fried chicken, that we went to Bonchon chicken for dinner!

    3 stars
     
  10. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    I think you mentioned there's a sizable Korean population in Virginia (I think VA is where you are) and that allows for K-films to actually show up in theaters. Pretty cool.

    Bonchon chicken looks good!
     
  11. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    This sounds like a remake of last year's Chinese movie Lobster Cop.
     
  12. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    Yes, I'm in Northern Virginia, which is in the DC metropolitan area. No city comes close to Los Angeles for sheer numbers of Koreans, but as far as % of the population, Farifax Co. beats most every place in the U.S. Korean restaurants, churches, bookstores, churches, karaoke joints, churches, auto repair shops, bakeries, supermarkets, cafes, churches. You get the picture. There are 4-5 Korean mega-grocery stores within a 30 minute drive. Huge stores, not mom-and-pop markets.

    And Bonchon chicken is delicious. I'm not sure how they fry it--it's quite different than Kentucky fried or Popeye's. Not just the flavoring, but the way the skin crackles. My god it is good.
     
  13. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    Ha! It sure does. There must have been concurrent productions. Or the Koreans got a hold of the script. I don't think a movie (Lobster Cop) could be released in June of last year and then Korea see it and then remakes it by this January. Casting alone takes a while, and then filming, editing, finalizing for release in less than 6 months?

    Maybe the Korean version was in production and the Chinese swooped in and made one on the cheap? Not meaning to disparage the Chinese--just thinking out loud.
     
  14. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Please inform me if and when you plan to watch it so I can watch it around the same time and we can compare notes.
     
  15. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    I just ordered the DVD off eBay. Shipping from Korea, so estimates a couple of weeks. I'll let you know when it arrives.

    I'm looking forward to watching it and comparing our reviews!
     
  16. ebossert

    ebossert Member: Rank 3

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    Highly Recommended

    Shoplifters (2018) (Japanese Drama) – A family of small-time shoplifters take in a child they find outside in the cold. This is essentially a character-driven film, not a story-driven one. And in that sense it whole-heartedly succeeds. Both the individual characters and their family dynamic are very compelling. There’s also a strong undercurrent of anxiety that the viewer will feel while watching this. Sakura Ando is utterly phenomenal and gives one of the best performances in recent years. This is a very impressive film by Hirokazu Koreeda.

    Goyokin (1969) (Japanese Drama/Action) (repeat viewing) – A guilt-haunted samurai attempts to stop a massacre from taking place in this film by Hideo Gosha. This can be easily described as a “quality” film, because it focuses a lot on character development (especially the guilt of the protagonist and how he tries to redeem himself) with some sword fights peppered in. The acting is commendable, with the supporting actress (Ruriko Asaoka) making the most lasting impression, and the camerawork is very good, capturing the snowy winter environments nicely. The finale takes place on a seaside, with tons of huge tree logs and fires blazing. Very cool stuff.

    The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017) (Japanese Anime Comedy) – Set in Kyoto, this is the story of a girl and her insanely long night of partying and drinking – complete with a book fair, festival, and many adventures in between. Meanwhile, a love interest attempts to win her over. This film by Masaaki Yuasa is fun, energetic, unpredictable, and hilarious. Lots of entertainment value to be had here. It’s also visually interesting, colorful and wild.

    Girl from Nowhere (2018) (Thai Drama/Thriller Television Series) – A mysterious, clever girl named Nanno transfers to different high schools, exposing the lies and misdeeds of the students and faculty at every turn. This show is very episodic, since the school and student body changes with almost every episode, but the constant rotation of different protagonists allows the scriptwriting to be very bold and creative. Scriptwriting is surprisingly good and it is stylishly presented. This is 13 episodes long, 35-50 minutes each.

    Opera (1987) (Italian Giallo Thriller) (repeat viewing) – An opera singer is stalked by an obsessed fan in this film by Dario Argento. In typical slasher fashion, there is some incredibly stupid decision-making made by the protagonists, but some of the death/suspense sequences are absolutely brilliant – the apartment, opera house, and hillside scenes in particular. Tons of opera music, as you might expect. There’s some really cool camerawork too, so the positives definitely outweigh any negatives. One more thing: do not piss off the ravens.

    Psycho-Pass (2012-2014) (Japanese Anime Thriller Television Series) – When the calculated likelihood of an individual committing a crime (measured by the Crime Coefficient index) exceeds an accepted threshold, he or she is pursued, apprehended, and killed if necessary by police forces. Dialogue and investigation elements are very well-written and the themes are nicely developed and explored. I like the villain’s philosophy in life and how he truly thinks that the system is stifling humanity. He’s very dislikeable in the horrific acts that he perpetrates, but there are also some horrific aspects of the ruling society that he is rebelling against. There’s definitely nuance and multi-dimensionality to all sides of this conflict. This show is dark in tone and quite serious, but it is measured in its violence and does not feel gratuitous at all. This is 33 episodes, 24 minutes each.

    Recommended

    Kingdom (2019) (Korean Drama/Horror Television Series) – Set in the 15th century, it tells the story of a crown prince goes on a suicide mission to investigate a mysterious plague that’s spreading across his country. He soon discovers that it is an atrocious epidemic in the form of zombies. All of the zombie-related stuff is impressive. The outbreaks are filmed well, the make-up is good, and there are some lengthy attack sequences that are fun to watch. Production values are solid and the pacing is brisk. One problem is that the characters are not memorable. Also, this K-drama is only 6 episodes long (43-56 minutes each), but it ends in the middle of the story, meaning that a future second season is necessary.

    World’s End Girlfriend (2004) (Japanese Romance/Drama/Comedy) – Shinnosuke and Misawa are joint managers of a Bonsai shop. Suddenly, Shinnosuke’s childhood friend Haruko turns up. She has split up with her boyfriend and needs a place to stay. This film is charming in its simplicity. Characters are likeable and relatable. The story flows naturally, even though much of the film consists of people hanging out together.

    Lu Over the Wall (2017) (Japanese Anime Drama) – The story centers on Kai, a gloomy middle school student whose life changes after meeting Lu, a mermaid. As one would expect from Masaaki Yuasa, this is a very creative movie, both in terms of character interaction as well as visuals. I liked the floating blocks of water that transport various people and animals. Fairly simplistic stuff in terms of story, but it’s cool.

    An Elephant Sitting Still (2018) (Chinese Drama) – In the northern Chinese city of Manzhouli, they say there is an elephant that simply sits and ignores the world. Manzhouli becomes an obsession for the protagonists of this film, a longed-for escape from the downward spiral in which they find themselves. This movie is almost 4 hours long! It definitely feels long and drawn out at times, but it’s still quite good. There’s some dramatic intensity here, and the frustrations of the characters are properly developed. The main characters are surrounded by miserable people all the time, which gets them into trouble even when it’s not their fault. Nicely shot and acted. Some very long takes without an edit. The director committed suicide in real life; this was his first and last film.

    Not Recommended

    The Counterfeiters (2007) (Austrian/German Drama) – The story of the Operation Bernhard, the largest counterfeiting operation in history, carried out by a German concentration camp during WWII. This movie is okay, but there’s nothing special about it at all. Production values and direction are run-of-the-mill at best. Performances and character development are decent, but fail to earn sympathy from the viewer. There’s no nuance to the character interaction to make it interesting. This is basic stuff.

    Halloween (2018) (American Horror) – Laurie Strode confronts her long-time foe Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago. The intro scene is underwhelming, and the theme song is adapted to a less creepy version, meaning that the opening 10 minutes feel flat. Most of the protagonists are obnoxious twits, especially the two journalist dweebs who are totally unlikeable. The first 30 minutes are just dull setup. There are also too many scenes that are structured to mirror the original, which was distracting. The score is neutered to be limp and ineffective, which means that John Carpenter should just retire at this point. It fails to take its time to capture the Halloween holiday atmosphere, and it also fails to set up the characters or the scares properly, which means that it feels rushed even when nothing interesting is happening. This movie just goes thru the motions and does nothing to distinguish itself or be memorable in any way. The long finale is surprisingly tedious. The comic relief is atrocious. There’s a plot twist near the end that is incomprehensibly stupid. On a positive note, a few of the death scenes are pretty good, but I will happily re-watch the much-maligned “Halloween 6” over this one, any day of the week.

    Tsotsi (2005) (South African/British Crime Drama) – Six days in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader who randomly decides to care for a baby for no reason whatsoever. Yeah, I’m not buying this one. It’s very blunt and clumsy. The main guy is undeveloped and incredibly boring. The main actor is underwhelming. From the director of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” – no joke.

    Bottom of the Barrel

    Granny Gabai (2006) (Japanese Drama) – An obnoxious little twit boy grows up under the care of his grandmother. This is sickly sweet garbage, with atrocious acting, a boring screenplay and cloying music. The opening 15 minutes are completely unwatchable, with all of the constant wailing and crying on display.
     
  17. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    Shoplifters is finally available at my convenience store. Will watch pronto. Who wants to party?
     
  18. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Me! Me! Me! But its not available on my convenience store yet. I watched the trailer and I just stopped with "From Director Koree-da Hirokazu". 2 hours, though= 3 weeks per my standards lol.
     
  19. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    I also liked this a lot. I gave it 4 stars.

    I like Argento. Out of the 7 films I've seen of his (Opera, Phenomena, Tenebre, Inferno, Suspiria, Deep Red, and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), Inferno is the only one I didn't really care for. I'd rate Opera up there near the top. 4 stars.
     
  20. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    Over the Rainbow (2002)

    Korean romantic drama that stars fashion model Jung-jae Lee (The Housemaid; Il Mare; Asako in Ruby Shoes; and many more) and the late Jin-young Jang (Sorum; Singles; Scent of Chrysanthemums). Lee gets "minor amnesia" after a car accident. He can remember everything just fine, except for his love life. He figures out that there was a girl (THE ONE FOR HIM), who he called "his rainbow" but he has no idea who she is or if they had a relationship or had broken up or anything. So the movie plays out with he and some of his friends trying to remember back to their college days to determine who this "rainbow" girl was. Everyone seems to remember there was such a person, but no one knows who she is or was.

    He follows clue after clue. Just when you think, THAT must be her...nope, it's not her. Every lead ends up a dead end. But he ends up falling for the girl who is the main one helping him in his quest, so it's not all in vain. It's a little awkward for them, b/c she has just broken up with Lee's best bud. Will the two friends/acquaintances fall for each other? Or will Lee finally find his rainbow?

    Lee sleepwalks through his role, but Jang is perky and cute and provides a surprisingly mature (for Korean films, anyway) presence, even given her character's recent break-up, so she could have been all histrionic and stuff.

    I was poised to give this 2.5 stars, which is a middling "no offence" rating. Nothing about the movie pissed me off or had me rolling my eyes. Good for a watch, but not a re-watch. But the last 20 minutes hit me in my sweet spot, and it ended on a (slightly) higher note.

    3 stars.
     

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