Recently Seen, Part 30 (August 2019)


Member: Rank 5
Speaking of well-worn cinema tropes ...

After My Death
(Joi manheun sonyeo) [2017] • South Korea
Director Kim Ui-seok (Debut)

A bit of a Memento Mori thing going on here. Girls High School; bullying; suicide; teachers who hit students; guilt crawling out of the woodwork; unrequited love; jealousy (it's not a lesbian thing because being lesbian or acting on lesbianic impulses isn't the thing. It's just young love). Throw in a couple detectives and voila! It's a whole new movie.

This flick is done really well. The acting, the writing, the direction. All good. It's not afraid to go slow and it doesn't set out to manipulate anybody (as far as I could tell). In the end, though, it's pretty inconsequential, except maybe for its view of suicide. And it's intense.

The lead actress, a 30 y/old playing a high school student, is very good. At first I thought she might be younger and was thinking it's pretty brutal to put young girls through the emotional turmoil this girl goes through, but then I looked her up, discovered her age, and thought "Okay, grind up her insides. It's just an acting job".

This is the kind of Korean flick I love. Indie-ish, not aiming too high, not about rich and powerful men and their rich and powerful man problems; a plot that's not too complex for its own good; and most importantly, a considered touch that gives life and nuance to all the peripheral characters. I love it when a character might have only one or two lines but they ring, they tell, they reveal.

Koreans. In this flick, when one character hits another character, they actually hit them. No faking. One character hits herself. No faking. (btw - she's the mom and also very good, a veteran of almost all Hang Hong Soo whatever his name is who makes all those movies about people who think being drunk makes you smarter). There's a scene where a group of girls beat up a single girl and it's unnerving in its authenticity (to me, anyway).


Member: Rank 4
Sounds promising. I liked Memento Mori well enough, but it needed more "lesbian stuff" lol.

Speaking of realistic scenes, there is a scene in Sex is Zero, where a drunk girl has to throw up. Rather than using deft editing or fake stuff held in the mouth until go time, the actress really did have to vomit. According to the director's commentary, she kept drinking some stuff (I don't remember if was some sort of purgative or just copious amounts of water), but she just kept drinking it until her body reacted and up it came. To make matters worse, I think they had to do more than one take. Poor girl.


Member: Rank 3
Highly Recommended

Clear and Present Danger (1994) (American Drama/Action) (repeat viewing) – CIA Analyst Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) is drawn into an illegal war fought by the US government against a Colombian drug cartel. Ford owns this movie, but this has a solid supporting cast that make strong contributions (Willem Dafoe, Joaquim de Almeida, etc.) and an interesting script that adds tension and suspense. The street ambush is an awesome sequence.

Extreme Job (2019) (Korean Crime Comedy/Drama/Action) – A police undercover operation takes a delicious, unexpected turn when they open a fried chicken restaurant as their cover. This has a lot of funny moments. There’s a lot of situational humor and one-liners. Most of the laughs result from the cops caring more about their chicken restaurant than doing their actual cop jobs, which is definitely amusing. There’s a funny footchase sequence to begin the film, but there’s only a bit of action during the middle before the big battle royale at the end. Fun stuff overall.

It Comes (aka Kuru) (2018) (Japanese Horror) – A married couple (Satoshi Tsumabuki, Haru Kuroki) is terrorized by a sinister spirit. They ask for help from a journalist (Junichi Okada) and his psychic girlfriend (Nana Komatsu). First of all, the cinematography, editing and sound design are all fantastic – which is no surprise for a Tetsuya Nakashima film. The horror sequences showcase bloody attacks that are perpetrated by a supernatural entity that enjoys slicing human flesh, which makes for a surprisingly bloody ghost film. The story shifts to the perspective of different protagonists as events progress, which is pretty interesting since multiple actors get the chance to lead the film. Solid stuff. (Viewed without subtitles.)


Yellow Fangs (aka Remains) (1990) (Japanese Drama/Thriller) – In 1915, a mountain village in Japan was attacked by a giant bear that murders men and eats women. Hiroyuki Sanada and Bunta Sugawara star. Set mostly in the snowy winter months, this has very good production values, with some nice forest and mountain environments to enjoy. The bear does disappear for stretches of time, but the drama between the characters is good enough. Practical bear effects are not entirely convincing, but the final fight is pretty fantastic and exciting! Sonny Chiba directed and financed his first directorial effort here, but the movie bombed at the box office and he lost most of his assets!

Last Letter (2018) (Chinese Drama/Romance) – Shunji Iwai directs this film about a woman (Zhou Xun) who writes letters to the former love interest of her recently deceased sisters. The story shifts back and forth in time, with use of flashbacks. This is an ensemble film, so Zhou does not carry it on her back the whole time. You get a feel for the dead sister, even though we never see her in her adult form. This does feel a bit on the long side, but it’s good. Iwai is apparently also making a Japanese version with Japanese actors.

Cock and Bull (2016) (Chinese Mystery Thriller/Drama) – When a murder occurs in a small town in Southeast China, a local mechanic, known for his honesty (and bad temper), comes under suspicion. The rural areas and barren wastelands of China are captured well, especially the old architecture of the houses. Acting is good all-around. There is a change in perspective at certain points, where the focus shifts to a different character who is involved – this helps to unravel the mystery for the viewer. The storytelling is fluid. The thriller sequences are scrappy, clumsy and moderately violent.

Zombiepura (2018) (Singaporean Horror/Comedy) – When a mysterious virus breaks out in an isolated army camp, a lazy reservist soldier and his tough commander must work together to survive, and learn what it means to be real soldiers. The zombie mayhem begins early on and the infection spreads quickly after being bitten. Zombie attacks are intentionally clumsy, but there are a few good tactics and there’s a bit of thought and creativity here. The comedy mostly works too. This is limited by its lack of stand-out action or horror. But overall, this is a solid flick.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019) (American Sci Fi Action) – A deactivated cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is. The premise is generic and the villains are thinly drawn, but the protagonist is likeable and the action is good enough. Conflicts are engaging. The design of the cyborgs are rather awkward, however, since most of them have practically no human body parts outside of their heads. Regardless, this is pretty entertaining stuff that sets up a sequel that may or may not get made.

Two Evil Eyes (1990) (Italian/American Horror) – These are two horror tales based on short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, directed by George A. Romero and Dario Argento. “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” (directed by Romero) – After her rich, evil husband lies on his death bed, a woman enlists the help of a swindler to hypnotize her husband to sign over his assets before he passes away. Unfortunately, he passes away too early, but that’s only the beginning of the horror. This is definitely on the slow side and it’s rather uneventful for stretches, but it has a creepy finale and enough psychological content to be enjoyable. “The Black Cat” (directed by Argento). A sleazy photographer (of murdered bodies) adopts a strange black cat. This is slow-paced stuff, but it has some interesting events and it does get rather bloody. Decent enough.

Glass Garden (2017) (Korean Drama) – After things go bad in the city, a researcher moves to a desolate forest to conduct bizarre research involving trees. After the 35-minute setup, the forest atmosphere kicks into high gear with ominous winds and swaying trees. It is also at this point where the film goes into all-out “art-house” territory, with more emphasis on imagery and weird stuff. But even in that sense, it’s only moderately successful. This movie is weird enough to be worth a watch (there are a few surprises and memorable moments), but it does not fire on all cylindars and I found myself caring less about what was happening during the second half. Geun-young Moon is a bit flat and one-note in her performance. From the director of “Pluto” and “Madonna.”

Eerie (2018) (Filipino Horror) – The unexpected and gruesome death of a student threatens the existence of an old Catholic school for girls. This must be considered a disappointment from the director of “Birdshot.” I can understand why this movie gets lower ratings. There’s not much of a story and characters are thin, meaning that things do get a bit tedious during the latter half. Also, there’s nothing new here that we haven’t seen before and the ending is an anticlimax. However, the direction, sound design and acting are all solid. There are only a few jump scares; and even when jump scares are used, the sound never gets too loud. That’s a big positive for me. Also, it seems to set up jump scares that never happen, which I really liked. I actually enjoyed “Aurora” more than this, however.

Not Recommended

Red Family (2013) (Korean Drama) – In this spy drama, a North Korean family of spies infiltrates the South to launch a surveillance plot. However, allegiances blur when they come to befriend their kind neighbors. This is a blunt film that rushes thru certain scenes too quickly. It’s not bad or anything, just mediocre all-around.

Shocking Dark (1989) (Italian Action/Horror) – This is a blatant rip-off of “Alien 2.” Unfortunately, it’s so similar to “Alien 2” that it fails to justify its own existence. One could simply watch “Alien 2” again instead. The filmmakers should have put their own stamp on things, instead of simply making a garbage “Alien 2” duplicate. Acting is atrocious from start to finish, and it’s not unintentionally funny enough to be watchable.

Stand By Me (2018) (Korean Drama) – Duk-gu is 70 years old and living with a young grandson. This is a cringe-worthy melodrama that relies on low-hanging fruit and simplistic, boring characters. The kids are also really annoying.

Aeon Flux (2005) (American Sci Fi Action) – Aeon Flux is a mysterious assassin working for the Monicans, a group of rebels trying to overthrow the government. When she is sent on a mission to kill the Chairman, a whole new mystery is found. Line delivery is flat from practically everyone, and the story is incredibly boring. This movie takes itself so seriously, but the script sucks and cannot support that tone. The action is average at best (with subpar editing), and not nearly good enough to compensate.


Member: Rank 4
Last Letter (2018) (Chinese Drama/Romance) – Shunji Iwai directs this film about a woman (Zhou Xun) who writes letters to the former love interest of her recently deceased sisters. The story shifts back and forth in time, with use of flashbacks. This is an ensemble film, so Zhou does not carry it on her back the whole time. You get a feel for the dead sister, even though we never see her in her adult form. This does feel a bit on the long side, but it’s good. Iwai is apparently also making a Japanese version with Japanese actors.
Nice to see a positive review of this. It seems to have come and gone pretty much unheralded, but maybe Iwai attracts less attention when he's being nice than when he's being edgy and uncomfortable. The other thing I found out from watching this was that the little girl from Aftershock went on to a proper acting career.


Member: Rank 4
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019) has a loveable family of impoverished, virtually unemployed scam artists at its core. They live in a grungy basement apartment, sponge a wi-fi connection from a neighbour, and fold pizza boxes on a commission basis to make ends meet. They’re not so much out-and-out criminals like the family from the previous year’s winner at Cannes, but they take the outlook that the odds are stacked against them and they adjust their moral compass accordingly in their search for paid work.

When the son manages to con his way into a tutoring job for a fabulously wealthy family, he sees opportunities to scam jobs for the rest of the family, and one by one his sister and parents install themselves into their new household. All this makes for a witty and entertaining farce, as the stakes get progressively higher and the plans more elaborate and outrageous with each family member to be absorbed. If anything, Bong moves things along a little too quickly, and when the inevitable and somewhat predictable third act arrived, I thought maybe it would have been nicer to take a little more time getting there. Except that what had been set up as the predictable climax wasn’t. Things take a sudden turn, the tone starts changing wildly, it’s not clear who the main characters are anymore, and the whole thing heads off to god knows where.

This is Bong Joon-ho back at the top of his game, maybe his best film since Memories of Murder.


Member: Rank 4
The Third Wife (Ash Mayfair, 2018) opens with a young 14 year old girl travelling down the river, on her way to become the third wife of a wealthy landowner in late 19th century rural Vietnam. Despite barely being older than the children of the other wives, she quickly finds herself pregnant, praying desperately for a baby boy in order to gain status in the household. As the pregnancy progresses, so do the family’s plans to arrange marriages for the eldest son and daughter. While the daughter looks forward to her impending adulthood, the son is distraught at the lack of control he has over his life and rebels – the fallout of this causing the titular third wife to question what future there is for her child in a society so bound up in gender norms.

This is a stunningly beautiful film, but one that moves way slower than the silkworms that are frequently used as a symbol of the characters’ constraints. At the end, my wife compared the director to some kind of masterchef plating up, delicately putting a flower here, a petal there, a drop of relish here, a dash of sauce here, until there’s a huge plate full of perfectly arranged garnishes and condiments, but no room for any meat. And I felt a bit like the characters were viewing their world through the eyes of a Westerner versed in third-wave feminism. But it is stunningly beautiful.


Member: Rank 5
Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if you like this one ... I'm sure you'll find it ahem visually appealing. On the other hand, @divemaster13 would be bored stiff and ultimately have the same complaint he had about Memento Mori, and @plsletitrain would fall asleep during the first 15 minutes, long before any dialogue kicks in.
lol, I should have known better than to follow your link to a movie trailer :emoji_confounded: It creeped me out. But movie trailers usually do. Let me check the poster ... mkay, the one with the girl on it is not too bad, the eyeball one, I dunno.

Third wave feminist vegan movie. I recognized a few of the actors from the few Vietnamese movies I've seen.

I have to return to this. That trailer is deadly gross. Why do they do that? Does the movie have that ominous 90's third wave late night skinemax overtone to it? Or is it just the trailer?


Member: Rank 4
Let me check the poster ... mkay, the one with the girl on it is not too bad, the eyeball one, I dunno.
I had to do a google search to understand what you meant by "the eyeball one" and ... WTF?????????????? It's one thing for some twisted mind to come up with that for a joke, but it's another thing for someone to decide, "yeah, let's run the marketing with this". Seriously??

Does the movie have that ominous 90's third wave late night skinemax overtone to it? Or is it just the trailer?
The trailer plays up to it way way too much to be properly representative. But there's enough there to push things into uncomfortable territory - it's kind of difficult to dismiss it as soft-core wankery when it comes from a female director's point-of-view. Apparently the film was pulled in Vietnam after 4 days, when the 13 year old lead actress's mother started getting death threats.


Member: Rank 5
Weird, the site has changed its look. Anyway, @clayton-12 , I'm just starting Parasite, subs look pretty good, not machine translated but not retail either. I'm curious ... I'm at the beginning where the son has just gotten to the house to tutor. When the worker lady lets him in she lets him walk past her and then the camera cuts to inside the house looking back at them and she is way in front of him. It looks like a glaring continuity error. It's the second one I've noticed so far ... I'm curious, does Bong play around with that kind of thing in the film or is my anal rententivity radar too high?


Member: Rank 4
It looks like a glaring continuity error. It's the second one I've noticed so far ... I'm curious, does Bong play around with that kind of thing in the film
I never noticed it

is my anal rententivity radar too high?
Should I answer this question, or put it a vote?

All great characters, especially love the madam mom.
Yeah, she's great. There's something about her that fits so perfectly with the main family - she's just as aspirational, and just as incompetently so, as them. Even though she's got everything they desire, that ability to ... just ... be ... normal ... is so tantalisingly just beyond her reach.


Member: Rank 5
Not like I'm live blogging this movie lol

I had to take a break and do some work, about half way through. Back now and the family is off camping and the other family is getting drunk. It feels like a totally different movie. I hope the housekeeper doesn't show up. That would be too easy.

I looked up the madam mom. She was in that "family dildo comedy" --as our dearly departed green frog friend put it.