Category: Cinema Around the World

Five Films to Start Your Korean Movie Obsession

I recently lived in South Korea for two and a half years. When I left I had developed a love for two things: K-Pop and Korean cinema. The love of K-Pop waned somewhat (not entirely, Big Bang are still my jam) but the love of the cinema remained. My enjoyment of Korean cinema is based upon the fact that the Korean movies I have watched and enjoyed have shared two main characteristics, confidence and unpredictability. I feel like Korean directors are more willing to test their audience and zig when we expect a zag, making for a movie experience...

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Withnail And I

Overview: It’s 1969 and two, rarely sober, out of work actors take a holiday from their squalid Camden Town flat to a no less dilapidated cottage in Penrith, courtesy of eccentric Uncle Monty. 1987; Handmade Films; Rated 15; 107 minutes. Joining the cult: A smoke infused living room, dingy wallpaper, a sink overflowing with ‘matter’ and eggs deep frying in an inch of fat. Marwood (Paul McGann), the ‘I’ of the film’s title, looks up from a salacious newspaper, his face pale and eyes red with devastation from the night before. With this disgusting mise-en-scene, there’s little wonder that...

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Locke (DVD/Blu-Ray Review)

Overview:  A man makes a decision that changes the rest of his life. A24; 2014; Rated R; 85 min. Decisions: Locke is a simple, straightforward film that asks us to do a few basic things: Reflect on our own individual loneliness, recall our past, and question our moral integrity. This request is negotiated between the audience and the film’s lone on-screen actor, Tom Hardy. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a hardworking family man. Locke is soft-spoken, stern, and works hard to always do the right thing, a commitment that is tested when he discovers himself in a very compromising situation sprung...

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Calvary

Overview:  During a confessional, a priest learns that the confessor will attempt to murder him in a week’s time. Irish Film Board/Lipsync Productions; 2014; Rated R; 100 Minutes. Condemned to Die:  Calvary sets a very distinct expectation with its first spoken line.   The ensuing exchange of dialogue establishes a determined, naked, jarring tone that will hold for the length of the movie, and Father James (Brendan Gleeson) reacts to the confession with nuanced expression in a way that accurately colors everything we are about to learn about his character, and everything he is about to learn about himself.  As...

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Persona

Overview: A well-known actress (Liv Ullmann) and her nurse (Bibi Andersson) retreat to a small cottage after she has a breakdown, and their lives become increasingly surreal. AB Svensk Filmindustri; 1966; Unrated; 84 Minutes Tearing Down the Wall: Ingmar Bergman’s Persona is a terrifically unsettling paean to the artist and the audience, forever trapped in each other’s orbits but rarely coming close enough to meet. Bergman aims to directly influence his audience, to make them furrow their brows and shift uncomfortably in their seats. The great joy of Persona is that he does this by making a film about...

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The Rover

Overview: Ten years after an apocalyptic event known as “The Collapse,” a nameless man (Guy Pearce) tracks the thieves who stole his car. A24 Films; 2014; Rated R; 102 Minutes Problem Dog: There’s an episode in the fourth season of Breaking Bad called “Problem Dog,” so named for a now-famous monologue delivered by Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), wherein he describes his confusion and anguish at the fact that he has yet to be punished for a murder he committed. It touches on the existential idea that the universe lacks inherent justice, and Jesse struggles to reconcile this with the...

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Belle

Overview: Dido Elizabeth Belle, daughter of a British Naval officer born out of wedlock, is raised by the noble Mansfield family as a dignified member of the household. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2014. Rated PG. 104 Minutes. A Nod to My Childhood: As a Disney-raised child, when I hear the name “Belle” in film context, I immediately recall the bibliophile who falls for a beast. In some ways, this default comparison to the animated work The Beauty and the Beast is not a wasted one. From an early scene in which we first see Dido cradling a book in her...

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Filth

Overview: A maniacal, reckless, depraved, guilt-ridden, corrupt cop attempts to earn a promotion through solving a horrifying case.  Steel Mill Pictures, Logie Pictures, Altitude Film Entertainment; 2014; Rated R; 97 Minutes. Familiar Tones:  Trailers and posters for Filth  are eager to point out that its source material, the novel of the same name, was written by Irvine Welsh who also penned the novel from which Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting was adapted.  Normally, I am baffled by the advertised presentation of these connections.  By the logic of this perspective, Maximum Overdrive deserves the attention of all of the world’s Shawshank Redemption...

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Hot Fuzz

Overview: Cornetto Day continues with Edgar Wright’s second installment of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, Hot Fuzz. Universal Pictures; 2007; Rated R; 121 minutes. Blood and Ice Cream: After the release of an undisputed comedic masterpiece, the world eagerly awaited what Edgar Wright would use to solidify his status as the best comedy director working today. Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy are all standalone films; however, there is a thematic line of growth. Shaun of the Dead is about a boy – in a man’s body – becoming a man. Hot Fuzz is about that man who learns to...

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The World’s End

Overview:  Old friends reunite to reattempt a legendary pub crawl.  Universal Pictures; 2013; Rated R; 109 Minutes. Partaking of a Liquid Repast: For all of its outlandish comedic exploits, for all of its zany science fiction plot twists, and for all of its out-of-this-world elements of cinematic magic, it’s quite astonishing to realize that, in the most evident sense, The World’s End is a movie that catches us on the hook of personal empathy, somehow baited by familiar human experience.  To say that Director Edgar Wright pulls “a trick” to accomplish this empathic investment from his audience is to...

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The Raid 2: Berandal

Overview: Following the events of The Raid: Redemption, rookie Jakarta cop Rama must go undercover to bring down the corruption in the city and save his family. Sony Pictures Classics/Stage 6 Films; 2014; Rated R; 150 Minutes. The Violence: Holy shit, this movie is violent! From start to finish it’s a flurry of punches, kicks, gruesome injuries, and graphic deaths. This movie is not for the faint of heart. There is barely enough time to recover from one action set-piece before the next one begins. Viewers should watch this with a large audience as the “Oooh’s” and “Oh my’s”...

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Seven Samurai

Overview: Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese epic about a group of seven misfit samurai that come together to defend a farming village from bandits. Toho; 1954; Unrated; 207 Minutes. The Original Epic: At the time of Seven Samurai’s release, very few films had a vision or scope as ambitious as Kurosawa’s, with his large action set pieces, unprecedented battles, and sheer number of actors on screen. The film tops the three hour mark, but very little of that time is filler, as Kurosawa provides ample character development in each of the samurai. By the end of the film, each samurai has...

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Like Father, Like Son

Overview: Two families discover that their six year-old sons were switched at birth. 2013. Unrated. 121 Minutes. Like Ozu: Like Father, Like Son focuses on the dynamics of family, and revisits similar themes that director Hirokazu Kore-eda has explored in his previous films (Nobody Knows, Still Walking, I Wish). He is the contemporary equivalent of Yasujirô Ozu, the legendary Japanese director, whose films from the 1930s to the early 1960s focused on the dynamics of Japanese families. Families: Ryota is a successful businessman and enjoys a comfortable life with his wife Midori and quiet son Keita. Ryota doesn’t spend...

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In the Mood For Love

Overview: Set in 1960s Hong Kong, In the Mood For Love, directed by Wong Kar-Wai, is an examination of how the seed of romance can form and leave an indelible mark. USA Films. 2000. Rated PG. 98 Minutes. The Romance: With a delicate and natural touch, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung bring to life the bond that their character’s form over mutual suspicion of their spouses. As the characters begin a romance, absent of sexual contact, viewers fall further and further under the influence of their organic on-screen compatibility. The Setting: The arrangement of imagery is deliberate and top-notch...

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Oldboy (2003)

Overview: A man is kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, then set free with no explanation. 2003. Show East/Tartan Films. Rated R. 120 Minutes. Korean Filmmaking: Oldboy is the second part of director Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, and a benchmark in the history of Korean film. It brought a specific style of Korean film (films dealing with violent or disturbing subject matter) to a wider audience and served as an introduction to Korean film for many viewers (including this one). I could ask many acquaintances who aren’t avid movie-goers if they’ve watched a Korean film, and many of them...

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