Hwayi: A Monster Boy (Korea: 2013): Joon-Hwan Jang Returns with A Vengeance

Yun-seok Kim educates Jin-Goo Yeo

Yun-seok Kim educates Jin-Goo Yeo

Ten years after his flamboyant debut, director Joon-Hwan Jang steps out with a much tighter and straightforward crime saga. While it isn’t Save the Green Planet II, Hwayi stacks up well against other Korean vengeance thrillers. In a genre crowded with first rate films over the past decade, Hwayi shows that there can always be room for another.

Rating:
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Brazil (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: Terrorism, state torture, the ease at which our humanity can be manipulated away and clinging to the hope that escaping into dreams of love can break us free. I wish I could say its themes are dated. Brazil is still visually stunning. There may be a handful of better dystopian films, and certainly ones that pack more thrills, but since the root social problems that the movie explores are still with us, Brazil remains a vital expression of our fears of the present.

Rating

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Release Date: February 22, 1985

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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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Inherent Vice (USA: 2014): Strong style and mood cannot overcome a lost plot

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Brief Review

If one could enjoy a movie for mood and setting alone, Inherent Vice may be the masterpiece of the year.  It is America of of 1970 that director P.T. Anderson is laying out, that time of hazy drugs and confused meanings when the entire country seemed to have completely lost the post-war plot. That the rootlessness of the times overwhelms the characters is understandable, but at 2 1/2 hours, viewers may become restless at the meandering developments that always seem to be leading somewhere, but which never reach any specific conclusion.

Rating

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The Usual Suspects (USA: 1995): A review at 20

The first in a periodic series of reviews of films celebrating milestones in 2015

Release Date: January 25, 1995

It is difficult to believe that The Usual Suspects is 20 already. Bryan Singer’s mid-1990s pulp about five criminals attempting a heist to save their lives seemed to be pointing the way toward a noir future when it was released. It seems like just yesterday we were talking about a twist ending that “we never saw coming.” Sure it wasn’t The Crying Game (1992) levels of twisted, but I think we were out of the practice of watching suspense tales unfold, so the question of “Who Is Keyser Soze?…If he even exists” was fresh for us without long film memories at the time.

Kevin Spacey won his first Oscar for his role in the film. Christopher McQuarrie also won an Oscar for original screenplay. Both screenwriter and director would pair up again several times in much bigger budget fare – most notably X-Men, Jack, the Giant Slayer, and Valkyrie. As far as independent movies go, it could be considered a success. Below are four questions to contemplate at 20:

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Gone Girl (USA: 2014): An Imperfect Crime

Gone Girl is a slick potboiler about the failure of a marriage and the unraveling of an attempt to commit the perfect crime. It does a good job staying away from many of the cliches of the crime thriller. It could easily have become a straightforward police procedural, but nonetheless the movie still made me feel like I was watching a TV drama from time to time and not a film.

The movie opens on the morning of Nick and Amy Dunne’s (played by Ben Affleck and stunning Rosamund Pike) wedding anniversary. Has stopped in a watering hole called “The Bar” which he owns with his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), mainly to complain about his wife and marriage. He receives a phone call from a neighbor that his door is open and he returns home to find broken furniture but no wife. For the remainder of the movie, the characters attempt to solve the crime while flashbacks provide the history of the marital conflict between the two leads.

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