Recently Seen, Part 32 (October 2019)

divemaster13

Member: Rank 4
The Handmaiden (2016)

Well, well, well, a Korean erotic mystery thriller. Double and triple crosses in Japan-colonized Korea, centered around a pampered heiress, a devious suitor, and a streetwise girl posing as a handmaiden.

It worked for me, for the most part. I did find it erotic; there were twists and turns I did not see coming; and I was somewhat thrilled. So the important boxes are checked. The first half is the strongest. After the main reveal (which took me completely by surprise), it lost a little steam, as I was not quite convinced of the motivations of the main characters after that. They seemed a bit arbitrary, based on the groundwork laid in the first half of the film. But I never knew that impromptu dental work could be so erotic.

4 stars


Volcano High
(2001)

My 4th or 5th time to watch this. Such a guilty pleasure. Sure, the "plot" makes no sense at all, but it's silly enough to not frustrate or anger you. Just roll with these weird kids at this weird high school seemingly set in a parallel universe. It starts off goofy, and picks up steam once the "enforcers of delinquent students" arrive. The finale is a crazy mash-up of The Matrix, Dark City, and Iron Monkey. With lots of water.

I usually watch the Korean (121-minute) version, but this time opted for the "international" version released on the HKL DVD, so I could listen to the commentary (Bey Logan and a Korean film expert), as well as see subtitled bonus features. This was one of the first Korean movies I ever watched, and it helped hook me.

4 stars
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
The Handmaiden (2016)
Gosh, I don't remember the impromptu dental work. But maybe that's because you mention 'erotic' and my mind conjures up a pair of scissors that get in the way. I remember the film being rather funny, and then weird. I think I enjoyed the third act for that weirdness, especially Cho Jin-Woong. He has become a favorite of mine. Off the rails but still in control. I've lost faith in Park Chan-wook, now that he's successful and making pictures that successful film makers make.
 

clayton-12

Member: Rank 4
Fly By Night (Zahir Omar, 2018) has four taxi drivers working with a contact at a KL airport booking desk to obtain personal details of well-heeled passengers, then embarking on small-scale but elaborate plans to extort money from them. From the beginning, the gang is fracturing – Sunny Pang as the leader is calm and measured, tempering any ambition with caution and an imperative to be a “gentleman thief”, while his younger brother is arrogant, violently impetuous, and dumb as a box of hammers. The younger two decide to pull off a job on their own, but find themselves completely out of their depth – the supposedly wealthy woman they target turns out to way smarter than them, and in an amusing turn of events, turns the boys into unwitting pawns in her own schemes. On top of this, they’ve attracted the attention of a dogged cop who seems incorruptible, and pissed off a cartoonishly psycho mobster.

The film is fairly slow to get going; at first it seemed a worry that much time was taking establishing characters that were fundamentally archetypes, or worse, stereotypes and caricatures. But even if it treads a rather familiar path in its set-up, the execution in the second half is very well done – once things start to turn to shit for our protagonists, it’s an engaging little thriller.
 

divemaster13

Member: Rank 4
Cold Eyes (2013)

Wow! Where to start? The movie opens, dropping you right in the middle of a cat-and-mouse, hard-boiled scenario. Who's the guy? Why is this girl following him? And why does it seem someone is following her? The movie doesn't waste any time with explanation; just puts you in the action and takes you along for the ride.

And the first 10 minutes sold me. Turns out the girl is vying for a position on an elite police surveillance and tracking team. Her amazing skills at observation and memory make her a natural, but of course there is a bit of hazing and having to pay her dues. The team quickly finds themselves surveilling an elusive criminal gang masterminded by a fellow the police team have nicknamed "Shadow."

As I was watching, I started to wonder if Johnny To suddenly became a Korean director. This had all the hallmarks of a Johnnie To movie! And I fucking love Johnnie To! Hell yeah! The quick cuts; the action-without-plot-exposition; the "camaraderie of the team," the quirky little fun bits amongst the chaos and violence (the team members all have animal code names; our girl is "Piglet."). Cold Eyes is not some lame second-rate Johnnie To wannabe, it fucking nailed the homage or whatever. And added a pulse-pounding score that really accentuates the edge-of-your seat tension.

I was solidly at a 4.5 for this, deducting a bit for some coincidences late in the film and a surprising case of the stupids from our elite team members, but then, in the coda--the "Shadow" case being solved; our "Piglet" having graduated to "Reindeer"; she's tracking the new suspect... and it's...Simon Yam! Simon! Fucking! Yam! How awesomely cool is that!

5 fucking stars! Hell yeaah!

(Ha Ha. Turns out Cold Eyes is a sortof remake of the Johnnie To movie Eye in the Sky. I knew something must have been going on. I've actually seen Eye in the Sky and rated it 3.5 stars. It's saying something that a Korean movie can "out-Johnnie To" Johnnie To!)
 

ebossert

Member: Rank 3
I'm watching a bunch of horror movies this month.

Highly Recommended

First Love (aka Hatsukoi) (2019) (Japanese Crime Thriller) – A young boxer decides to help a prostitute, but both are framed and hunted by the yakuza in this film by Takashi Miike. This is a crowd-pleaser with many good elements. It uses an ensemble cast to play characters with multiple enemies, which creates an interesting dynamic in terms of interaction. My favorite characters were played by supporting actors Shota Sometani and Nao Omori, who are just as essential to the story as the two leads. The tones are balanced very well here, since this movie takes itself seriously most of the time. The violence is fun too.

Horror of Dracula (aka Dracula) (1958) (British Horror) – The first in the series of Hammer Horror films starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula, this film also features Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing. Conflict escalates quickly in this version, which creates a brisker pace than some other adaptations (also, the runtime is only 82 minutes). The story is also quite different when compared to more “typical” adaptations, which gives it a fresh feel. Set design and visuals are very good. Performances are top notch. This is considered a classic for a reason.

Recommended

The House of Usher (1960) (American Horror) – Upon entering his fiancée's family mansion, a man discovers a family curse and fears that his future brother-in-law (Vincent Price) and his bride-to-be may be dying prematurely. Price is fantastic in this, and the mansion is a great location. It’s deliberately paced but engaging. Certainly worth checking out for fans of gothic horror.

An American Werewolf In London (1981) (American/British Horror) (repeat viewing) – Some guy goes to London and gets attacked by a werewolf. This is a solid movie overall. Some of the most memorable aspects are the practical effects, which show some really cool werewolf transformations and bloody flesh wounds. The dream sequences are fun, but involve random werewolf violence that adds nothing content-wise. The atmosphere captures the cold, rainy London weather of the late winter months. There are a few funny moments to enjoy as well.

The Tingler (1959) (American Horror) – A pathologist (Vincent Price) devotes his life to studying the effects of fear on the human body, but his research leads him to horrors that even he could never anticipate. The introduction by director William Castle is very amusing. Price had very good range as an actor; here he plays a very likeable (albeit flawed) protagonist. The interaction between his character and the wife is unusually manipulative and dark-natured. The most memorable scares occur during the second half and are quite good. Near the end it gets goofy, but in a good way. There are a few interesting plot developments as well. This is good stuff that has a certain charm to it.

Silent Rage (1982) (American Horror/Thriller) – A sheriff (Chuck Norris) tries to stop the killing spree of a silent maniacal murderer who, as the result of secret genetic experimentation by an unethical scientist, has the ability to self-heal. This starts off well, with Chuck going against this killer at the beginning. Then, the bad guy lies unconscious in the hospital for about half the film while Chuck tangles with some random biker dudes. This causes some pacing issues, but Ron Silver helps to keep things interesting as one of the doctors who actually has a conscience regarding the experimental serum. The deputy side characters are totally incompetent and kinda annoying. Regardless, the thrills ramp up again near the mid-point where the villain essentially plays a version of Michael Myers as he silently murders people at night. A sufficiently suspenseful film that’s somewhat unusual for Chuck Norris.

Lobster Cop (2018) (Chinese Crime Comedy/Thriller) – Four police officers open up a crayfish restaurant as a cover in order to catch a notorious drug dealer, only to find their secret recipe is more popular than they expect. This is a sufficiently charming flick that has some amusing character interaction. It’s thankfully low-key and does not get too wacky. The lighting is colorful too. The similar Korean film “Extreme Job” is a bit better though.

Predator 2 (1990) (American Action/Horror) (repeat viewing) – Amidst a territorial gang war in 1997, a sophisticated alien hunter stalks the citizens of Los Angeles and the only man between him and his prey is veteran L.A.P.D. officer. This begins badly, with a rushed opening and bad dialogue. It does settle in fairly quickly with a moderately entertaining shootout in a high-rise apartment between a violent gang and the Predator. It’s decent fun watching this alien dude hunt and kill people in urban environments, and there is some strategy involved in the meat freezer sequence (which is the best set piece of the film). The writing in general is not good, and I’ve always felt that Danny Glover was miscast as the lead, but we get Bill Paxton in a supporting role (which is always a plus). This is watchable.

Tomb Raider (2018) (American Action) – Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she discovers the island where her father disappeared. Much of the action in this movie is only kinda related to the main plot. There are lots of disaster-style survival scenes and chases, but they are only partially related to the artifact finding itself, which is poorly developed and not interesting. It’s not like she has to do these things to accomplish a specific goal, she just kinda runs into them along the way. The obstacles do become more focused during the latter third of the film. Still, the “bike chase game” early on is neat and fun to watch. Alicia Vikander and Daniel Wu make a decent team. This is watchable fluff.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) (American Horror) – A mad, disfigured composer (Lon Chaney) seeks love with a lovely young opera singer in this classic silent film. Nicely shot, with good use of shadows. The traps and passages under the opera house are cool and creative. This is a slightly monotonous and drawn-out viewing experience, with a notable runtime and repetitive orchestra music going non-stop, but it’s still neat and interesting to watch, with some memorable scenes.
 

ebossert

Member: Rank 3
Not Recommended

Alien vs Predator (2004) (American Action/Horror) – During an archaeological expedition on Bouvetøya Island in Antarctica, a team of archaeologists and other scientists find themselves caught up in a battle between the two legends. The antarctic setting is actually very boring because it’s mostly just interior, grey corridors with no color scheme. The attacks are uninspired and suffer from incompetent direction, which is no surprise given that Paul W.S. Anderson directed this. The action choreography is basic, thoughtless and repetitive. Also, you can feel the PG-13 rating since it’s lacking in on-screen violence. The predators look lame and it’s stupid how they befriend the humans. Oh yeah, the humans are totally forgettable.

Alien vs Predator 2: Requiem (2007) (American Action/Horror) – Warring Alien and Predator races descend on a rural Colorado town, where unsuspecting residents must band together for any chance of survival. This installment has an R rating, but it fails to take advantage of that freedom. It should be cool seeing a chest-burster come out of a little kid, but the way its executed is amateurish and chuckle-worthy. There are a few decent death scenes, but the monster attacks are really repetitive and involve no strategy. They are also badly filmed. Like its immediate predecessor, visuals are dull and painfully monotonous. Lighting is also very dark. Yet again, we have boring human characters, this time in the form of a wafer thin suburban family. Every single scene with the human characters is completely worthless, and there are a lot of them. This is tough to sit thru.

American Werewolf In Paris (1997) (American Horror/Comedy) – An American man unwittingly gets involved with French werewolves who have developed a serum allowing them to transform at will. Approximately 10 minutes in, this movie contributes a cringe-worthy CGI effect sequence that’s embarrassing and very cheesy. The score is awful and sounds like a lazy compilation of generic “emotion-grabbing” sound bites from a Nickelodeon movie. The scriptwriting is really bad, using contrivances, ear-shredding dialogue, lame romance and slapstick comedy gags that are always awkward and ineffective. Acting is low-grade and annoying. The horror/thriller scenes are mediocre. Even as a stand-alone film, this is crap.
 

divemaster13

Member: Rank 4
Three Outlaw Samurai (1964)

A ronin samurai comes across three miserable peasants who have kidnapped the local magistrate's daughter in order to gain some leverage in negotiating for lower taxes and overall better treatment. The samurai at first is content to just watch how it all plays out, then ends up advising the stupid peasants a bit. However, he soon sees that they have a real point and joins their cause.

Two other samurai (making the "three" of the title) soon come into play. One (a friendly and slightly goofy fellow) is another ronin who immediately joins the peasants' cause, as he himself came from low stock. The third is the cold and cynical hired hand "Captain of the Guard" for the magistrate who thinks the other two are fools for helping the peasants--until he, too, is betrayed by the magistrate. The magistrate is very good at making promises and then finding/hiring hired swordsmen to kill those he dealt with. And then hiring other swordsmen to kill the first swordsmen because they know what he did. And then hiring yet other swordsmen to kill THOSE swordsmen....well, you get the picture. The magistrate could have saved a lot of trouble (and tons of his own folks getting killed) if he'd just honor the samurai code and hold up his end of the agreements he makes.

There's a bit of love story as well, with several women playing roles in helping the samurai, including the kidnapped daughter who comes to realize that the samurai are much more honorable than her father. And a local gal who has her eyes on the goofy samurai. Interestingly enough, the main turning point for the "cold" samurai, which is rather late in the movie, is when the magistrate kills his whore/mistress. Never do that!

I love Japanese films of the '50s and '60s--especially those focusing on the samurai period, so I'm extremely biased when it comes to movies like this. If you like the genre, you'll like Three Outlaw Samurai.

This was actually Hideo Gosha's directorial debut. He went on to direct a number of other movies, including Goyokin and Sword of the Beast, both of which I also very much enjoyed.

4 stars.
 
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sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
It's saying something that a Korean movie can "out-Johnnie To" Johnnie To!)
I had the opposite reaction. Cold Eyes was sort of the pinnacle of Korean Hollywoodization for me. Over-moisturised people (Jung Woo-sung) who can't act, vogue-ing their way through a film, and great actors ( Sul Kyung-gu ) acting like crap to satisfy some directorial committee's misguided influence. And the girl vs girl matchup isn't even close. Fancy camera zooming does not a great film make. I ended up giving it 3/5, which is YMMV, meaning: if you like this kind of thing it will satisfy, but ....

I was pumped about the film when it came out because one of the directors -- Cho Ui-seok -- made one of the best Korean films EVAR: The World of Silence. But alas.
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
I watched a few horror-y films in honor of Daylight Savings Time coming to an end --or something. I can't remember why we do it every year about this time LOL

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. No. Just no.

Camp. A super low-rent Japanese Last House on the Left. Don't tell anyone I watched at it. I skipped forward a lot because it's super stupid and annoying without being super fucked up and gross.
God I hate the way the formatting in this Editor won't go away. I fucking hate it!

3 from Hell - A Rob Zombie flick. I kept thinking , FUCK I don't want italics any more. I turned it off and it won't go away. Anyway FUCK. Oh well, you're going to have to keep reading in italics if you choose to keep reading. I liked the flick. Zombie is in love with this stuff and it's clearly done with love. The THREE are just the right mix of over-the-top and empathetic. There's a few bloody gouging scenes but it's mostly done like CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER where there are visual flourishes and then an aftermath shot with intestines on the floor and whatnot. Anyway, three good characters, serial killers, who deserve some love, too.

The Dead Don't Die. Nice cast doing slow heartland humor in the face of a zombie attack. Tilda Swinton is amazing. When she shows up with a Scottish accent acting all eccentric it seems like a super fail. Then she owns it. Bill Murray and Adam Driver are a wonderful pair. But the movie doesn't do anything, and when you get to the end the Director does an explicit punt of the film. WTF. Folds. Jim Jarmusch is too hip, man.

I'm not sure if I posted here that I watched Bong Joon-ho's
Parasite, an absolute butt-kicking masterpiece of film making (with problems--but you know I always say a masterpiece must succeed in spite of itself)

And the latest money-grab for non-thinkers
Avengers: Endgame. I love me some Avengers, and I super love me some THOR, but this is a shit film: "The construction lines on this thing are so thick you can't see the movie."
 

divemaster13

Member: Rank 4
I'm not sure if I posted here that I watched Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, an absolute butt-kicking masterpiece of film making (with problems--but you know I always say a masterpiece must succeed in spite of itself)
This was just released in theaters in the DC area this week. Got a 4-star (out of 4) from the Washington Post on Friday. I definitely want to see this. The big question is...would my wife like it? If there is anything scary, gory, "makes my heart go pounding," action-oriented, disturbing, gut-wrenching (other then melodrama), or mysterious, the answer is "no, she won't like it."
Dare I risk a date night? Or just slink off to see it by myself? What say you Mr. sitenoise? :emoji_point_down::emoji_point_up_2:
 

sitenoise

Member: Rank 5
This was just released in theaters in the DC area this week. Got a 4-star (out of 4) from the Washington Post on Friday. I definitely want to see this. The big question is...would my wife like it? If there is anything scary, gory, "makes my heart go pounding," action-oriented, disturbing, gut-wrenching (other then melodrama), or mysterious, the answer is "no, she won't like it."
Dare I risk a date night? Or just slink off to see it by myself? What say you Mr. sitenoise? :emoji_point_down::emoji_point_up_2:
Tough call but I gotta vote :emoji_point_down: and ask WTF is with this index finger pointing down emoji? And add that I can't tell you why I vote thumbdown.jpg because it would spoil the film. Maybe your reviewers mention that Bong explicitly asked reviewers not to talk about the film, where it goes, what it does. It's one of those Korean films that goes flippy floppy. It's not mainstream cinema.
 

plsletitrain

Member: Rank 5
Sandcastle (Singapore, 2010)- Should've been my first Singaporean film but gadforgiveme I CAN'T... I ran for the hills on the 40th minute mark. I just CAN'T. I read the reviews. I CAN'T.
 
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