Recently Seen, Part 27 (May 2019)

Discussion in 'Cinema: International' started by divemaster13, May 2, 2019.

  1. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    Bichunmoo (2000)

    I'm totally biased becasue I LOVE the genre. Wuxia-style martial arts fantasy really trips my wires, so to speak. The bad news is that Koreans don't really excel at this genre. Certainly not like the Chinese. The good news is that Bichunmoo is about as Chinese as a Korean movie could be.

    Yes, the actors are all Korean, but the characters are almost exclusively Chinese (even the Koyro-descendant characters are essentially Chinese). The setting is 14th-Century China. Heck, even the movie was filmed entirely in China. The action choreography was directed by a Chinese team, and the action stunt team is a Chinese crew.

    All the camera angles and sweeps are right out of the HK-style, as is the whooshing through the air, across rooftops, and spinning around. I mean, why just jump out of the way dodging a sword if you can jump out of the way dodging a sword while spinning through the air in 16 rotations? There's a green glowing sword, and interesting use of "chi" energy, and bodies being blown apart and in half.

    The only thing missing from the "typical" Chinese plot and spectacle is the goofiness and silliness inserted into most HK sword-fantasy films. NOPE! None of that. Being a Korean movie, what is inserted in its place is...melodrama. Of course. Or, if you do not want to be charitable, call it "soap opera."

    But I feel charitable and will say I loved the wuxia/melodrama combo of star-crossed lovers and warring factions (Yuan vs. Mongol) and lovers sacrificing themselves for each other. Plot? Who cares? Who needs plot when you have beautiful people spinning around with swords?

    Stars a bunch of people you've seen in other Korean movies. The leading lady is none other than Wa-nee from Wanee and Junha. There's Guns & Talks and Volcano High and Shadowless Sword, and Ring Virus, and The King and the Clown, etc. etc.

    4.5 stars.
     
    #1 divemaster13, May 2, 2019
    Last edited: May 3, 2019
  2. ebossert

    ebossert Member: Rank 3

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    Highly Recommended

    The Longest Nite (1998) (Chinese Action/Drama) (repeat viewing) – A corrupt cop (Tony Leung) goes toe-to-toe with a criminal (Lau Ching Wan) while unaware of a grander scheme at play. This movie does a good job at creating a dangerous scenario where some characters are walking on eggshells to solidify a gang truce and other characters are trying to cause problems to disrupt the truce. With two of Hong Kong’s greatest actors at the top of their game, there are dramatic scenes in this flick that are absolutely electrifying. In terms of action, the boat station sequence is thrilling and the glass-shattering finale is highly entertaining. This is very fast paced stuff that’s only 80 minutes long. It flies right by, and the filmmakers do a great job of keeping the viewer on edge. Toss in some great scoring, some surprises and ultra-stylish direction, and you’ve got yourself a great film.

    From Beijing With Love (1994) (Chinese Comedy/Action) (repeat viewing) – Stephen Chow directs/stars as a spy who must recover a stolen dinosaur head while his new contact (the lovely Anita Yuen) tries to kill him at every turn. Despite the fact that this is a James Bond spoof, it has a distinct Hong Kong style as it mixes humor with bloody violence (which will assuredly give some viewers something to complain about). The script hits on all cylinders with tons of funny moments and chugs along at a blistering pace from start to finish. Even the fight sequences are spot on in their absurdity. This is one of Chow’s best films, if not the best.

    Sleep Tight (2012) (Spanish Thriller) – Apartment concierge Cesar (Luis Tosar) is a miserable person who believes he was born without the ability to be happy. As a result, he decides his mission is to make life hell for everyone around him – and his next target is a cheerful woman named Clara. The nutcase is the main character of the movie, so we follow him as he does all kinds of dubious things. This is an interesting tactic by the filmmakers. There are some good scenes of suspense, as well as some surprises. The odd thing is that some of the tension comes from the possibility of the stalker being discovered, which is something the viewer should be rooting for. It’s a bit difficult to tell where the movie is going during the second half. I really like the ending.

    Recommended

    Samaritan Girl (2004) (Korean Drama) (repeat viewing) – A teenage girl must deal with the psychological effects of helping her best friend into prostitution. Focus is also aimed at the relationship between the girl and her father, which develops nicely. The ending may seem like an anticlimax, but I really like it. You would think that the theme of teen prostitution would result in a bunch of depressing scenes, but the director explores the subject in refreshingly interesting ways. This is a solid film by Kim Ki-duk.

    Seventeen Years (1999) (Chinese Drama) (repeat viewing) – After an unfortunate incident, a woman returns to her home town 17 years later in this deliberately paced drama. The structure of this film is broken into three parts: childhood, journey, and reunion. The first part sets up the conflict, the second develops a friendship, and the third offers the conclusion that packs a nice punch. Bingbing Li anchors the good acting, which is omnipresent.

    Hit and Run Squad (2019) (Korean Crime Action/Drama) – Officers of the hit-and-run task force attempt to chase down a psychologically disturbed former Formula One racer who is now committing crimes with his madness for speed and cars. I really liked the performances in this one, which are led by Hyo-jin Kong. It feels a bit different from a typical Korean crime movie, maybe because it had a few unexpected moments. There’s a great scene near the middle that I was not expecting, and it had a dramatic foundation to it. One of the car chases ends in a way that is entirely realistic, but you almost never see it in a movie. This is a movie that is accentuated by good quality drama and character development.

    The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion (2018) (Korean Thriller/Action) – A high school student with amnesia is pursued by an evil organization, but eventually discovers that she has superhuman abilities. The opening 40 minutes have a nice setup and some slow-burn tension, but the pacing definitely drags during the middle 20 minutes. Thankfully, the film comes back to life near the one hour mark with a nicely violent scene that is a bit surprising. The finale bloody good fun. Not a lot of action on display, but when it arrives . . . it satisfies. Da-mi Kim is impressive in the lead role. Direction is very stylish in this intense thriller.

    Aurora (2018) (Filipino Horror) – The passenger ship Aurora mysteriously collides into a large series of rocks, causing loss of life. Unfortunately, the spirits of the dead may be returning to the nearby shores. The development of the story is backloaded to the second half of the film, but there’s a ton of atmosphere to enjoy throughout. Practically the entire film takes place on or near a gloomy coastline that features huge, jagged rock formations, a vast wavy sea that stretches out forever, rainy weather, and you can see the shipwreck that is still propped up against the rocks offshore. The setting and environments are fantastic. This is directed by Yam Laranas and stars Anne Curtis.

    Not Recommended

    High Society (2018) (Korean Drama) – A deputy curator of a chaebol-funded art gallery and her husband, a politically ambitious economics professor, will do anything to join the uber-elite. Some interesting discussions early on involving economics, as well as a quick scene involving a rigged art auction, but those aspects are not explored much. Most of the film shows how the marriage is strained by infidelity and shady business deals, which is pretty generic. There are a few lengthy sex scenes that don’t add much. Acting is good and there’s an unexpected scene near the end, but the script is too bland overall.

    Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018) (American Animated Action/Comedy) – Teen Miles Morales becomes Spider-Man of his reality, crossing his path with five counterparts from other dimensions to stop a threat for all realities. Yeah, we have to sit thru Spider-Man learning his abilities for the first time . . . again. Even worse, the script is contrived nonsense that throws in a bunch of people from “alternate dimensions” . . . just because. All attempts at serious drama are lazy, cliched and unearned. The animation is nothing special. The soundtrack is painful garbage and constantly distracting. The comedy is forced, with every character making quippy remarks every 5 seconds. The voice-acting is average at best. A few of the action scenes are pretty good, but the finale is a mess of random crap thrown at the screen. This has to be one of the most overrated animated films of the last 20 years.

    Grass (2018) (Korean Drama) – A woman (Min-hee Kim) observes the customers at her cafe and writes down their thoughts. Sang-soo Hong is one of those directors who is content with making the same film over and over again. This film is no exception, but it is of a lower overall quality when compared to his better films. The opening 10 minutes feel like the final episode of a soap opera, but you missed all of the prior episodes. The score is obnoxious in its loudness and it becomes immediately distracting. Shot in black-and-white and only 66 minutes long, but it somehow fails to hold interest.

    Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) (American Thriller) – NYPD detectives Shepard (David Carradine) and Powell are working on a bizarre case of a ritualistic Aztec murder. Meanwhile, something big is attacking people of New York and only greedy small time crook Jimmy Quinn knows where its lair is. This movie starts great with a hilarious scene involving a perverted window washer, but that’s arguably the best part. This is a low-grade movie where you barely get to see the monster. The attacks last a few seconds each and are very badly filmed. There are a few entertaining moments here and there, but this is mostly boring to watch, with lots of dull filler.

    The Whispering (2018) (Korean Horror) – Some annoying college kids come upon an abandoned amusement park that is haunted. There are a good number of scares but they get progressively worse with lots of cutaways and few money shots. Most of the film takes place in a cave, which is really disappointing and monotonous when one considers that this should have had a greater variety of amusement park settings. This is crap.
     
  3. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    I love this movie! Very, very funny. I need to re-watch this ASAP.

    I hate this movie. Ki-duk KIM is a taste I never acquired.
     
  4. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    I just watched this and will be posting of my review of it as well.[/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
     
  5. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    The Killer (1989)

    One of the movies that solidified John Woo and Yun-fat Chow as the main innovators of the "heroic bloodshed" HK action genre. And is there bloodshed? Oh, indeedy, yes. And moral ambiguity as an assassin contracted by the triad lives by a moral code that many would consider honorable. And the police inspector dedicated to catch him plays fast and lose with the law. This story is how they slowly become "partners." Or at least team up to achieve a mutually desired end, which involves protecting a blinded young lady singer and killing as many of the murdering double-crossing triad members as possible. According to the commentary, the total body count is somewhere in the 120s, most by handgun, shotgun, sniper rifle, uzi-type automatic weapon, explosion, and one poor bastard getting knifed in the back.

    A "bullet ballet," for sure, as Woo's patented stylistic approaches permeate the film, from the cinematic gunplay to the two leads pointing guns at each other, to the protection of the innocents, and flying through the air in slow motion. And doves and candles and Christian iconography, of course. (Woo is known for his dedication to the Christian faith).

    If you want to find plot holes, you can. If you want to find continuity errors, you can. If you wonder how two henchman get thrown backwards from one shot from Yun-fat Chow's handgun, you can wonder that if you want. I don't care about any of that. I figure Chow is such a bad-ass, just the thought of him shooting your partner can send you flying backwards with a bullet hole in your chest as well.

    I'd give this 4.5 stars, except that would mean I'd have to give Hard-Boiled like 6 or 7 stars, which would inplode the space-time continuum. So The Killer gets 4 stars.

    This week, when I watched it, I chose my Hong Kong Legends DVD, with the Bey Logan commentary and extra features. Bey Logan usually gives an extremely informative commentary, and this one is no exception**. He knows or knows about every single person who has ever worked in Hong Kong cinema in the history of the world, and every film they ever worked on. Which is no easy feat, as the HK movie industry is so interwoven that a person can be an actor, an action director, an editor, a screenwriter, a producer, hell, even the soundtrack singer, depending on what movie it is. Logan keeps all this straight. I assume he has written notes but at no time in any commentry (and I've listened to over 20 of his) does it sound like he's reading from notes. He obviously takes it very seriously and prepares diligently, but it just seems to flow from the top of his head. And he doesn't really have an off switch. There is never ANY "dead time" in a Bey Logan commentary. Plus, he avoids the "ok, now this guy is going to track down that other guy," and "oh, he does that in order to prove his love..." blah blah blah stating the obvious by merely narrating the action. He's all about the behind the scenes aspects of the filmmaking and the personal/professional histories of the filmmakers and actors.

    Another note on the special features. There is an interview with Sally Yeh, a HK singer who played the role of the poor blinded "Jenny" in The Killer. The one the assassin and the cop are trying to protect. In the movie, Sally Yeh was cute, for sure, and did an admirable job. The interview must have been at least 15 or so years later (maybe mid-2000s, compared to the 1989 film date). My God did she mature into a stunningly beautiful woman. Simply gorgeous. I think my jaw hit the floor. And she spoke perfect English. No trace of an accent whatsoever. And her thoughts on the film and her role were very insightful. And did I mention she was beautiful?


    ** But I will give you an exception. When I watched Bichunmoo this recent time, I watched the Hong Kong Legends DVD (actually, "Premier Asia," which is their label for non-HK Asian films); again with the Bey Logan commentary. As much as Logan knows about HK cinema, he does not know much about Korean cinema. He readily admits this and had a Korean film expert sit in with him. But Bey being Bey, 90% of the time he talked about the Chinese filmmakers and action directors and stunt teams on the film. The poor Korean expert guy had a hard time getting a word in. But Bey did ask him a lot of questions, so some topics were teed up nicely. But in the end, Bichunmoo was mainly an excuse for Logan to talk about HK films. It was interesting enough, but I would have like the focus to have been geared more toward Korean film.
     
    #5 divemaster13, May 18, 2019
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
  6. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    No it wouldn't. It would just mean you were as good at maths as I am.

    The Killer was the first HK film I ever watched. I'd really seen nothing like it before, so even though I haven't watched it in almost 30 years, it holds a special place in my heart.
     
  7. sitenoise

    sitenoise Member: Rank 5

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    lollegs.gif
     
  8. divemaster13

    divemaster13 Member: Rank 4

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    Oh, but my rating scale is logarithmic, so it all works out! :emoji_grin:
     
  9. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    Logarithmics? That sounds like some 1980's dance craze.
     
  10. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Sounds like the band who gave us "The Miracle of looooooooooveee.....will take away your pain"........
     
  11. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    Shoplifters (Japan, 2018)

    The first part depicted Koreeda’s trademark of people doing seemingly mundane things that too often get overlooked in movies but can be as real as real can get. Ya know, people singing kumbaya. People didn’t really sing Kumbaya here though, because the movie tells the story of an unusual family who thrives on shoplifting, thus the title. The cast is a powerhouse cast. Oh, I didn’t recognize Tremble All You Want girl here until later when I was reading the cast and the name somehow rang a bell.

    At first look, they comprise a typical happy family. Grandma, dad, mom, big sister, big brother, baby sister. Only that they aren’t related by blood. Circumstances brought them together, and as the movie unfolds, we are told of the story of how they came to be.

    What was first a light-hearted feel-good Koreeda film made a 180-degree turn and kind of went deep when it neared the ending. There was more to the shoplifting. There was more to the laughter and family bonding moments. Social issues are well layed down. How do you define the word family? Is it just confined to blood relations? How do you become a real “mom” or “dad”? Sakura Ando gave a time-stopping performance when she was “I wonder” “I wonder” while being interrogated.

    The ending was the strongest part of the film for me. But maybe because you know me, I like plot turns. I’m not @sitenoise who can stare at mom cooking tofu and call it a day. Koreeda is the exception, though. I’ve seen in him stuff I usually don’t do in other movies. The first hour lulled me to sleep, and if it was from another director I could’ve shut it off already. But its Koreeda man! You don’t punt on a Koreeda film! He's a magnet! You can't run away from hiiiiimmmmm.......(Okay, I’m trying to remember if I haven’t bailed out on a movie of his) And I’m glad I stuck around. Powerful performances from the cast. Even the young actors!

    The amount of Lily Franky’s butt exposure is disturbing. But other than that, I can’t remember anything remarkably alarming from this. The movie blew me away, but mostly because of the ending, which is around 30 minutes from credits. The 1 ½ hours was very monotone, the ending was powerful. Overall, I’d classify this as one of Koreeda’s strong films.
     
  12. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    Interesting. I watched this a few months ago, and struggled to properly form a coherent opinion of the film as a whole. Possibly watching it around the time of my father's funeral coloured my view.

    But my reaction was pretty much the inverse yours - I thought the first hour was very, very strong, and then the whole thing went off the rails in the last half hour. I didn't like the artifice of the interrogation pitting the family members against one another; at that point, I kind of stopped believing in them as real people, I didn't buy their reactions. And having the police return the child to her mother just didn't seem credible to me.

    I don't think Koreeda does himself any favours when he lets a plot get in the way of his characters.
     
  13. plsletitrain

    plsletitrain Member: Rank 5

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    My condolences.

    Now that I think about it, was he trying to go mainstream here?

    Thank you for this! You know for the longest time I haven't seen a film from him and watching this one I was breaking my head figuring out what is it that defines Koreeda as a distinct filmmaker. More than Kumbaya and tofu, its his CHARACTERS! Thank you!
     
  14. clayton-12

    clayton-12 Member: Rank 4

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    @sitenoise articulated it far better than I ever could when he once wrote of Our Little Sister:

    About half way through I was filled with joy by this movie about nice people getting along with very little drama in their lives ... I took a break. When I came back I was happy to be in the company of these people again.
     

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