White-Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom (China: 2014): Sometimes it’s a better movie if they DON’T fall in love.

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Sure, the colors are vibrant, the scenery is gorgeous, and the stars are pleasant to look at in Zhang Zhiliang romantic wuxia epic…but why introduce a powerful kick-ass female lead if love is just going to drag her down?

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My Beautiful Launderette (UK: 1985): A review at 30

An entry in a periodic series of reviews of films celebrating milestones in 2015

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Brief Review: The novelty of the Hussein family embracing Thatcherism may have worn off, but the film could be worth a look for early glimpses of at the time emerging star Daniel Day Lewis and a generally fine ensemble cast.

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Release Date: August 18, 1985

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Man on High Heels (Korea: 2014)

 

Cha, looking exhausted. You may be, too.


Action-drama-action-drama-action-drama. Given the choice of following a policeman on his last days before a sex-change operation or mind numbing mayhem, Man on High Heels offers too much tragic-action for my taste. Seung-won Cha is great playing the lead with as little irony as possible. It is overall a much more humane treatment of the transgender role than expected. But after awhile the burden everyone carries is too much, and the action too cruel for the movie to elicit more from me than a blank stare and a shoulder shrug.

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Paddington (USA/UK: 2014): The polite bear won me over

Michael Bond's classic bear keeps his classic look.

Michael Bond’s classic bear keeps his classic look.

True to the storied bear’s origin, funny and cinematically sophisticated, Paul King’s Paddington is a children’s film that actually works. Great care obviously went into the production, with effects placed into a children’s live action film at levels of quality I have not seen since Hugo. What is “real” and what is the effects team’s imagination blend almost seamlessly.

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The Face Reader (Korea: 2013): Kang-ho Song as 15th Century Detective

Palace intrigue and bureaucratic reform in 15th Century Korea are deftly handled in The Face Reader. Kang-ho Song as always is fun to watch as the titular character, who winds his way from poverty and disgrace to the heights of power and back again. Director Jae-rim Han keeps the story simple enough for non-Korean audiences to follow this Korean period drama, which makes it a good introduction to the genre.

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Secretly, Greatly (Korea: 2013): Identity-crisis and action genres step on each other in otherwise entertaining film

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Brief Review

The comic book origins of the story are never more apparent than in the clashing final confrontation scenes of Secretly, Greatly, Chul-soo Jang’s action-comedy-drama about North Korean super spies. The different cinematic requirements of  drama and action are kept in check until the final 20 minutes, when they stumble over each other, making for a relatively disappointing finish to an otherwise entertaining film.

Rating

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The Inverview (USA: 2014): It would have been worth the risk, if more risks were taken

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Brief Review

There should be a rich vein of comedy to mine in a send-up of American foreign policy hubris, press incompetence, manipulation and petty dictatorships, but The Interview fails to dig deep enough to make it sting and make us laugh. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have all the ingredients of a farce, but rely on the well-worn stoner-womanizer personas of the leads too often to take the film into more interesting territory.

Rating

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