Monday, October 26, 2009

The Host

Six years after several containers of toxic chemicals are secretly dumped into the Han River by an American scientist and his Korean partner, a giant carnivorous sea mutant rises out of the water, and starts feeding on the helpless population of Seoul. A careless father Kang(Bong Joon-ho) accidently loses his daughter to the giant sea beast, and is later quarantined after its revealed that the monster may have been carrying a deadly contagious virus. Thinking his daughter is dead, Kang receives a frantic cell phone call for help from his still alive daughter. When nobody believes him that she is still alive out there, he breaks out of the quarantine. Together with his father, alcoholic brother, and Olympic gold medalist sister, they set out to find and save their little girl before she becomes the monsters late night snack.

As of the past few years, Korean cinema has exploded with worldwide success, we have been treated with many phenomenal films from many wonderful directors. Bong Joon-ho has delivered us with yet another. However, something about this gem stands out from the rest. It could be the tight story which primarily focus’ on one small family working together to retrieve their lost little girl, or maybe it’s the total absence of gang warfare, or stylized shootouts that seem so common among Korean films. But something tells me it’s the giant carnivorous sea monster!

The Host is a groundbreaking film for Korea. In fact it happens to be the most successful to date, and it’s a monster movie! Simply said, The Host is awesome! This is coming from someone who is not exactly a huge fan of monster movies. There is just something very unique about this film. Even though it is in fact a monster movie, it lacks all the common cliches that come along with them. It’s actually is telling a half decent story. A story which really does not take much time to take off. The film doesn’t even clock in a full 15 minutes before we first get introduced to the monster itself, and what an introduction! The way we are introduced to the beats is so well done, so casual. As Kang is delivering some food to a blanket(The restaurant has picnic style blankets instead of tables) he notices everyone starring out at something hanging from a bridge. So he slowly walks over and joins them. Suddenly the giant object descends into the water, where people begin throwing items in to watch it snatch them like a fish. But the fun and games quickly end when it decides to join everyone on the shore.

The monster itself is pretty well done. Bong Joon-ho put a lot of work, and worldwide searching into finding the right company to do create the CGI beast. He ended up using a company based out of San Francisco California called ‘Ultimate’. Their resume includes CGI work on such American films as Hellboy, one of the Harry Potter films, and Superman Returns. They did a great job. The monster looks fantastic, most of the time. There is a few moments in the film when he(she? It?)doesn’t quite looks as seamless as previous scenes. Its not clear what exactly the monster is a mutation of. It looks like a fish, but walks like a T-Rex(it is obvious it has no T-Rex in it). But it also has a long tail that is uses to swing from high places, or grab some unlucky snacks. However what it is not as important as what it does, and what it does is very cool!

With a strong cast, and a decent story, The Host has much more to offer then most monster movies. In the monster itself is the only indication that this is in fact such a film. There is no campy overacting, or half naked collage girls running through the woods, and most importantly there is no American teenage pop “sensation” making their unfortunate “acting” debut! What we get is another steller film out of South Korea, except this one has a giant freakin monster!!


A Film By: Bong Joon-ho

Real Time (Para-Review)

One of the best independent films I have watched in quite some time! Though small(cast of 5, and one additional voice), it packs more heart then all the hollywood blockbusters combined. Jay Baruchel proves he has some serious acting chops, and is becomming one of my favorite young actors. And Randy Quaid is always a joy to watch, but this has to be one of his more memerable characters! He also sports a perfect Aussie accent. The final 10 minutes of the film are absolutely brilliant and the ending could not have been more perfect. An unforgettable little gem!


Friday, October 23, 2009

The Ghost

Something happened to Ji-won. She doesn’t know what, but it has left her memory a blank pallet. She hasn’t a clue who she was, who her friends were, or anything about her life before her incident. When she discovers that girls who were once her friends start mysteriously dying off one by one, she starts to investigate, and as she begins revealing the pieces of her past life, strange and horrific visions begin to haunt her.

The Ghost is another in a line of Korean Ghost stories, using a similar formula we have seen before. This includes a long haired ghost of a girl seeking vengeance for whatever caused her death. If you have seen enough Asian ghost stories then you will know what you are in for when you watch this film (also known as ‘Dear Friend’). So do not expect to be scared witless or even scared at all. This is not a scary film. Its scare tactics have been used so much before, that you will know ahead of time when to be scared just by the scenes set up. At one point a young girl decides in the middle of the night to get a glass of water from the kitchen. Where does she get the water from, the facet. . .I think you can figure out what happends next.

You will see a lot of familiar formulas used throughout the film, mainly elements from three quite popular and well known films. Ju-on, Dark Water, and A Tale of Two Sisters all appear to have had a hand in the inspiration of The Ghost. Our vengeful ghost liked to use water to kill her victims.

So despite all the familiarity of its story, The Ghost it is still a decent film. Caution must be made that it does take a fan of the Asian ghost genre to enjoy the film. Some may and will be put off by what many believe to be an overused formula. It’s not the vengeful ghost that makes this such an enjoyable and worthwhile watch. It’s rather the story of our poor amnesia struck leading character Ji-won. Little is revealed to the viewer that she does not first discover on her own. So we get to learn along side of her. The story is one of self discovery; unfortunately for her what she discovers is not going to come easy. This is in fact where the truly horrific elements of the film begin. As the film reaches its climax, and we discover why Ji-won is being haunted by this ghost, and why her friends are being rubbed out one by one, but Ji-won is not. Then it really does send a chill down your spine. However it must also be added that it is a realization that is far more sad then scary.

But just when you think all is well, the wrench is truly thrown into the gears and the entire film is turned upside down to review what has truly been going on for the last 90 or so minutes. This finale might leave you a bit confused. But really, what fun is a plot twist if you don’t need to think it through afterwards?


A Film by: Kim Tae-Kyeong

Real Fiction

A street painter who has lead a rather unhappy life, and is starting to lose grip on reality incurs a vision of an alternate self who through a rather dramatic stage performance tells him that he should find all the people who have ever done him wrong, and kill them. So without taking much thought into it he begins his violent vengeful rampage.

It is not the film itself that will leave you talking about Real Fiction for days after watching it. Its how the film was actually made, and by knowing this it gives you an entirely new appreciation for Kim Ki-duk, and the art of simple film making. After weeks of preparation and rehearsing, Real Fiction was shot in one day, over the course of about 3 and a half hours.

Every scene was filmed in real time, in one take, with multiple cameras set up. As well as one freehand camera being carried around by a mysterious young girl, who by the way is made quite apparent yet is never really explained. Using this style you are presented with a film that leaves you basically watching a stage play on screen. Though this is a very unique way of approaching a film, it does come with the risk of things not going perfectly well, which you will see in a few brief moments (though it is assumed any major hiccups were edited out).

However the film overall was done pretty flawlessly. The cast, especially our leading man Ju Jin-mo is superb in this quite demanding and probably nerve racking role. You will probably find yourself feeling sorry for the victims. Though these people did do him wrong, they are not bad people, so unlike most revenge films it’s hard to decide weather you should be caring for the main character, or weather you should despise him. That said your decision will probably be made easy by the end of the film.

Real Fiction is such a simple straight forward film, it just follows our killer about the city as he makes rid of his victims. So it is quite easy to say that it is how the film is made that makes it what it is, which is a brilliant early effort from a director who has since established himself as one of the most universally renowned Korean Directors in the world. In fact had this been made in a tradition style it would have lacked all its charm and been nothing but a boring A to Z killing spree.


A Film by KIm Ki-duk

Transformers Revenge of the Fallen (Para-Review)

I hate Michael Bay, but I liked the first Transformers, alot. It almost felt like his creative input was restrained for the first film and though he still managed to get some of his ideas through, he was kept at. bay. But for this, they must have removed the restraints and given him a throne and a magic staff that shot out lightning bursts of lame humor, dizzying arial shots, annoying parents who need to be punched, robots that perpetuate stereotypes, and $100 000 000 just for helicopter fuel.

In the end it was not the worst sequel ever made *cough* Matrix *Cough* and I found it watchable for the most, but if put in the hands of different script writers, producers, DIRECTOR, and most of the cast, it could have been much better. . .(catch my drift?)

. .oh and Tyrese's reign of terror MUST stop now!


A "Film" by: Michael bay

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2009 Lost Memories

Imagine that during World War II, Japan had allied with the US, and the bombs were not dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but on Berlin. In 2009 Lost Memories, that is the reality.

In 1909, a failed assassination attempt on a Japanese foreign minister Ito Hirobumi(which in real life was successfully done by legendary Korean patriot Ahn Chung-gun)has changed the course of history as we know it. Now Korea is just another part of the great Japanese empire.

After a successful foiling of a terrorist attack on a Museum displaying ancient cultural artefacts. J.B.I agent Sakamoto (Jang Dong Gun) begins to uncover information about a familiar looking relic known as the “Lunar Soul”. An item that the underground band of Korean born freedom fighters (the same behind the unsuccessful attack on the museum), are willing to sacrifice everything to obtain. As he starts to unravel the mystery behind the “Lunar Soul”, everything he thought he knew about the world he lives in suddenly gets turned upside down.

Time travel could be a very dangerous thing. Many people believe that everything, good or bad, happens for a reason. So the idea of time travel is scary because its very true that the slightest change, could have an enormous affect on the future. So imagine what would happen if the change that occurs is far greater then a slight one.

2009 is one of those films that kinda starts out slow, but once the story really kicks off, you are hooked. And there is quite a story to tell. The plot is a think one indeed, and there is plenty of time to tell it. The film clocks in at a 136 minutes. Luckily the thick plot is not hard to follow. In fact the story is so well told, that despite its many layers and twists, its easy to keep on track and understand what’s going on. The idea behind the film is brilliant. It truly makes you think, what if? What is someone went back in time and stopped JFK from being shot? What is someone went back in time and killed Hitler when he was a child?

The show stealer for sure is Dong-Gun Jang who plays the lead character Sakamoto, a Korean born agent of the J.B.I., who has forgotten his past. In fact his partner Saigo (Nakamura) basically thinks of Sakamoto as Japanese. At one point of the film he even says "Its strange to think of you as Korean". Dong-Gun is absolutely steller in his role, he plays his character with absolute conviction and by the end you actually care for Sakamoto. Who makes a very drastic change in character by the end of the film.

On the outside 2009 looks like it’s going to be an insane, sci-fi adventure, but despite some incredible action scenes, it’s a much laid back investigative thriller. A lot of plot unveiling. And even some great twists and "Oh my god" moments.
It goes without saying that if you have not seen 2009: Lost Memories. You really should. Its very much would you time (all 136 minutes of it) and even if by the end if you felt it went on too long. You will not be disappointed by what you have just seen.


A Film by: Si-myung Lee

The Chaser

There is no denying that when you first hear a brief plot summery for The Chaser you will most likely scratch your head. A detective turned pimp, starts losing his girls to a serial killer and uses his professional skills and connections to start a personal manhunt for the suspect. However the hunt will be heavily skewed by wave after wave of frustrating red tape in what appears to be a slight at a broken justice system.

So there you have it, a detective turned pimp hunting a serial killer, despite the unusual plot The Chaser is easily one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I hate to use clich├ęs, but it’s gripping, suspenseful, edge of your seat (ack., hate that saying) thrill ride (terrible I am very sorry), its everything so many crime thrillers with similar tag lines have tried to be in the past, and failed to deliver. As the quality of Hollywood, and (I hate to say but) Hong Kong cinema seems to be dropping, or at best flat lining. Korean Cinema continues to thrive and deliver such brilliant films as this one!

Believe it or not The Chaser is a debut film by a director named Hong-jin Na, who is currently working on his second film, both of which he also wrote. Yun-seok Kim won a Korean Film best actor award for his performance as Joong-Eom the pimp in question, and deservedly so. His performance was top notch, and the same can be said for Jung-woo Ha who brilliantly plays the killer to pitch perfection. He is truly one of the more memorable on screen villains in a long time.

There is a perfect blend of action, suspense, graphic violence (that Korean film fans must be used to by now) humour, and heart shattering drama. Though there is a bit of a slowdown midway through that takes a bit of steam out of the films pacing. Don’t fret because the final 20 minutes of The Chasers outstanding finale will more than make up for it! If you have a habit of biting your nails, or pulling your hair when nervous, you may want to wear gloves and a hat. Because when I pulled out the “edge of your seat” card earlier, I was pretty much talking about the unforgettable climax that will most likely have you gasping aloud. I know I did!


A Directorial Debut by: Hong-jin Na

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Bloody Aria

An uptight music professor Young-sun (Lee) and his beautiful young student In-jeong (Cha) are on their way back to Seoul from an audition. After a rough run-in with a local highway patrol officer (Han), Young-sun decides to pull his brand new Mercedes off the road for a ‘break’ from the road. Soon his womanizing instincts take over and he attempts to have his way with her, only to have his cell phone smashed over his head and his young student run off. So he sits and waits in his car (I guess for her to return?) He soon discovers that he is actually parked in the ‘turf’ of some rather off the wall country folk who do not appear to be of friendly, or intelligent nature, and who also happens to have a young high school student tied up in a sack on the back of their bike. He tries to hide behind his heavily tinted car windows. But he is eventually found out and after a swift baseball bat to the head is now held captive (and I use that term lightly). Meanwhile through some strange twist in fate In-jeong trying to catch a ride back to Seoul catches a ride with the leader of the country gang and end up back at her professor’s car! This is where the film starts to get interesting, but not before the group all sits down for some barbeque!

A Bloody Aria is a funny little film that beneath its surface, deals with some pretty tough subjects, including bullying and of course not to far into the picture rape. It’s a simple tale of upper class city folk having a run in with some off beat country bumpkins! What makes this film so interesting and entertaining is its unique cast of characters. At times you will think you should hate, or care for a certain character but then suddenly start questioning your opinions. We are given three almost henchmen like characters, two of them young biker kids, as well as the fantastic Oh Dal-su playing a mentally unstable redneck like character who we are introduced to as he chases down a bird with his trusty baseball bat. The leader of the pack played by Lee moon-sik is a small shot tempered man who will later provide a very important peace of the films plot later on. But perhaps the show stealer in the film is the cop, played brilliantly by Han Seok-kyu. He does not have as much on screen time as the rest of the cast, but what time he has is truly memorable.

Some may have to take the films simple yet twisted story with a grain of salt; it’s not your straight cut A to B comedic romp. It comes with its fair share of twists and turns, as well as some truly uncomfortable and awkward moments that help in force that ‘how the hell am I supposed to feel for this character?’ feeling.


A Film by: Shin-yeon Won

Blood The Last Vampire

Throughout the opening moments of Blood it appears as though it is going to be an exact live action copy of the original (and much shorter) anime. However this soon diminishes and we are left with something that could be easier summed up as an over the top swordplay gore fest. . .which isn't a bad thing!

For a film of its kind on a budget it pulls out pretty well, the CGI throughout leaves a lot to be desired, but it made up for by Yuen Kwai's stellar action choreography. Which makes me wish the film stayed low key and left out the elaborate gore, and high flying chases. But then again it’s a vampire flick, and what better way to eliminate "Blood suckers" then removing limbs, and separating the left side of the body from the right? That said if you like gore, you will not be disappointed, but be warned the Blood Suckers do not bleed the blood you know and love, instead they seem to live off what looks like strawberry yogurt, with extra strawberries!

Our main heroin is played very well by Korean actress Gianna Jun, aka, Jun ji-Hyun, aka, The Girl! Yes, that Sassy Girl herself is all growd up and can very much do the action thing! Her performance steals the show, as it rightly should. Unfortunately her performance highlights the less talented supporting cast who’s performances can range from decent, to just plain awful. However the entire cast, despite the range of acting talent, is very well casted and look the parts perfect!

Blood the Last Vampire may not appeal to everyone, and is a sure fire hit or miss among fans of the anime. But I really did enjoy it for what it is. It’s a fun, stylized, over the top, swordplay-gore fest with some top notch limp hacking fight choreography. It may not be Nosferatu, but at least there is no Jessica Biel or Ryan Reynolds to be found!


A Film by Chris Nahon