Web Junkie (USA/Israel: 2013): Social disease or phenomena

Web Junkie (2013)

Web Junkie (2013)

More thoughtful than I anticipated, Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam’s documentary takes us inside a gaming addiction treatment facility in China. While it never digs sufficiently into details to be an exposé of a potential sham, the human story is compelling enough to draw one in. The audience is left uncertain whether or not the boys and their families suffer from a real clinical addiction or from social overreaction to contemporary teenage behavior, but it is difficult not to feel a sense that something is wrong with a world that creates compelling virtual universes for people to escape into and then unfairly institutionalizes those who try to escape there too often.

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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.

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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.

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Library Wars (Japan: 2013): Tales of war, stacks and romance

Library Wars is one of those Japanese pop phenomena that appears in all formats in rapid succession. It started its life as a light novel series, then a manga, then an animated TV series, then an anime feature film two years ago, followed by the live action film that I am reviewing today. If the process goes on, there will be a live action 10 part drama, followed by a live action film of that drama, followed by another TV series. I guess we do something similar here in the USA with comic book heroes and Star Wars, but we really don’t have the habit or process in place to release the same story in various formats so swiftly. When this rapid fire process happens in Japan, it usually means that we are dealing with a product aimed at younger audiences, and in this case, younger female audiences. With that in mind, I will review the Library Wars live action movie with a bit of caution. Not being Japanese, a teenager, or a woman of any sort, I’m not the target market. Is this a movie worth watching?

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Why Don’t You Play in Hell (Japan: 2013): A light comedy served with 1,000 gallons of blood

Sion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell traces its roots back to yakuza films, kung fu classics and light romances. It tells the story of a group of guerrilla film-makers fated to make one masterpiece together. That the film is about two yakuza gangs fighting a final battle with each other would not be noteworthy, except that the film is financed by the one of the gangs and involves an actual raid and fight to death. Beyond the buckets-of-blood stylings of the film, there is a little something for everyone, and as far as Japanese comedies go, it is accessible to western audiences.

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