Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Unborn But Forgotten

“Unborn But Forgotten” is a fairly strange film that could almost be considered the love child of The Ring, and the awful American horror flop “Fear Dot Com” however to the films credit the similarities do part ways as the film progresses. A pregnant journalist (Jun-ho Jeong), and a dedicated police officer (Eun-ju Lee) team up to try and solve a case of mysterious deaths, all connected by the fact that all of the victims were pregnant women who had all visited the same website 15 days before their death (see!). And guess what! As I mentioned our female lead is indeed pregnant, and yes, she too visited as well (note: not actual website name). So now to avoid her own inevitable demise she and her new partner must find a way to stop this murderous web-spirit-thingy. . .

The film hits basically all horror movie clich├ęs as though they went into the making of the film with a checklist. And until all have been checked off the story must go on. We have unsettling silence, creepy dolls, thunder and rain, and even a screaming tea kettle. The story is pretty straight forward, but does come with its share of plot holes and unanswered questions. For some reason our pregnant victims switch from being pregnant to not being pregnant depending on who is looking at them . . .why? Well that is left for you to decide. No, not magic glasses!

The film does have some great cinematography, and the acting from the late great Eun-ju Lee (as most should know the actress committed suicide in 2005) is superb. She delivers a fine and convincing heroin. Jun-ho Jung played his charismatic cop role nicely as well!

As straight forward as the story is, if you find yourself disconnecting from the film part way through you may soon after find yourself lost. Not to mention it sort of ends very abruptly. Throw in some okay horror beats, and a decent plot twist and you get a passable Korean horror film. Unfortunately with such a large selection of fantastic Korean Horror films available for your discovery, it’s a film that will most likely itself be soon forgotten. (pun intended!)


A Film By: Chang-jae Lim


(Written upon its release in 2006)

As most know by now, Fearless has been tagged as Jet Li’s final Wushu martial arts epic. This is obviously not good news to any fan of martial arts films, and especially fans of Li himself. That said, if you ever wondered how Jet Li would end his triumphant run after so many classic martial arts films, I can tell you he goes out on top. Fearless is easily one of Li’s best films in years, maybe ever. Also it is definitely one of director Ronny Yu’s best achievements in over ten years (in the past decade we have been treated with such forgettable films as ‘Freddy vs Jason’, ‘Bride of Chucky’, and ‘Formula 51’).

The film tells the story Chinese martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia. (Jet Li) and how he took back the lost pride and glory of the Chinese from the influential western powers and the growing Japanese reign in the early 20th century. The film opens up at the climatic moment of the story, at a fighting tournament where four of the top fighters from Japan, and the west are to compete against Yuanjia himself. Right from the beginning we are treated to a wonderful sequence of fights between three of the competitors and Yuanjia. But before he is to fight his final component, Anno Tanaka (Shido Nakamura), the story sends us back to Yuanjai’s childhood.

We see a very rambunctious young Yuanjia who wants very much to be a martial arts master like his father, but is forbidden to because of his asthma. When he watches his father be publicly defeated and humiliated in a fight, young Yuanjia challenges his own fight with a local bully, where he is also defeated and feels personally obligated to become the greatest fighter in TianJin.

The story then sends us forward to 10 years before the climax of the film, where we see an older Yuanjia who has almost achieved what he set out to do. We see him easily take on and defeat many local fighters and quickly become a local icon. Unfortunately as his popularity and reputation as a great fighter grows, so does his arrogance.

Everything suddenly comes to crashing halt when he unintentionally kills a fighter who he called out to fight during his birthday celebration. At this point we can start to see Yuanjin begin to start losing his self-control. But the final blow to his stability occurs when his daughter, and mother are brutally murdered out of vengeance for the man he killed. Yuanjin, in a state of complete disarray, fleas his town and takes salvage in a small farming village. He spends many years there, and with the help of a lovely blind girl finds himself, and is ready to return to his village and make a mends with his troubled past. Unfortunately when he returns, his village has started to fall to the influence of the westerners.

Shortly after his return, he discovers there is an American who has been defeating Chinese fighters all over the country and as a result the Chinese name is being tarnished and ridiculed as the 'the sick man of Asia’

Yuanjia now finds himself with a new personal objective; he fights not for his personal glory, but for his country and his people. We see his heroics return in a new light, and this light is ever so wonderful.

Fearless is a very special film, not only is it Jet Li’s final wushu film, but it’s a return to what Jet Li does best. When he did Hero in 2002, Jet Li fans worldwide rejoiced at seeing his return to his roots after so many disappointing American films. But Fearless is even more of what we all love so much about Jet Li, its Jet Li, its Wushu, its glorious!

Now there is one problem with the film, or should I say “lack-there-of”. The current version available(NOTE: Directors Cut now available), and probably the theatrical version is a mere 100 minutes. However the film that was shot was a much longer 150 minutes. I hate to admit it, but you can tell. The pacing of the film is good, but it just feels too quick. The story being told just can’t be done in less then two hours. The film takes place mainly over 10 years (longer if you include the childhood scenes) and there are many key moments throughout the 10 years, so an hour and 40 minutes just doesn’t work Now perhaps 150 minutes is too long, but cutting almost an hour seems like butchery. There is even cut scenes featuring the lovely Michelle Yeoh. However, all that said. The film is very watchable and even if there is never a full version available, what we get is still great. The acting is terrific, great casting, and lovely cinematography. There are some minor stop-and-go moments during the fights. They work, but some may find them unnecessary.

So if this is indeed Jet Li’s final Wushu martial arts film. I can honestly say it is a hell of a way to go. It’s hard to tell if this film will have the same impact Hero did to a worldwide audience, but for fans on the genre, and of Jet Li. I cannot see this disappointing.


A Film By: Ronny Yu

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

G.I Joe

G.I Joe is by no means a good film, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I really appreciate about it is that it does not take itself seriously at all. It is exactly what it set out to be. A live action, big budget, Saturday morning cartoon. One that requires the viewer to suspend all disbelief, lighten up, and just enjoy the show. Transformers 2 did quite the opposite, it forces us to try and invest too much emotion into something that should just be a fun time at the movies . . . or at home with a nice TV and a Blu-ray player. That in essence is what really makes a bad movie isn’t it? Something that tries to be one thing, fails, and ends up being something completely different. Be it a comedy that is not funny, or a drama that ends up being laughably bad. G.I Joe is none of these; it succeeds at what it is trying to be.

The highlight and lowlight is the cast. Lee Byung-hun (a personal favourite actor of mine) and Ray Park easily steal the show. Their sub-plot could have been its own film. Dennis Quaid may not have turned in his best performance of his career, but he sure looked like he was having a good time! On the other hand Channing Tatum is just . . . not a good actor at all, and having Marlon Wayans at his side most of the time did not help. Joseph Gordon-levitt pulled of the kind of performance that could only suit a film like this. He was the perfect cartoon villain. Very Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face.

This is not Christopher Nolans G.I Joe, this is Stephen Sommers after all, the guy who brought us The Mummy, Van Helsing, and a Huck Finn! So if you can try and enjoy it for what it is you may get more out of it then you think. Remember it could have been worse; it could have been Micheal Bay's G.I Joe. . .


A Film by: Stephen Sommers

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Red Shoes

A young mother who has recently discovered her husband has been cheating on her, decides to leave him and start a new life alone with her daughter. Shortly after she finds a unique pair of red shoes in a subway that she feels a strange attraction to. However once the mysterious shoes enter her life, they start a chain of horrific events that she finds herself unable to get away from.

A nicely stylized horror film that will probably be for fans of the genre only. Like some other Korean ghost stories, The Red Shoes definitely offers more style than substance. The atmosphere and look of the film is stunning, but the story can be somewhat difficult to grasp in one viewing(yes, a second is recommended). That said, the story is actually quite good. Its not so much a tale of haunted red shoes, as much of a story about a mother, struggling to raise her young daughter who appears to resent her, all while of course dealing with a pair of evil shoes.

It may be silly to think of a horror film about evil shoes, in fact it does sound silly. But then again we have had haunted video cassettes, cell-phones, cellos, cameras, wigs, eye balls, and so on. So a pair of shoes actually fits into the mix quite well


A Film by: Kim Yong-gyun