Tag Archives: daughter

Face: How Clay Can Be Evil

I always thought the idea of facial reconstruction was used for recreating the faces of cavemen and our ancestors. In this movie, the skulls and recreated muscles in clay are used to identify murder victims who have been destroyed beyond recognition. A useful idea I may add (and actually done). But who knew that recreating somebody’s face could awaken an evil demon of the victim. And much more.

With two seemingly parallel story lines intertwining this film into one thread, Face is a horror movie about very specific diseases and using clay to remake a face. The star of

A bit of the fright?

the film, Lee Hyeon-min (Hyeon-jun Shin), is a face recreator who works for the police to catch whoever is murdering people past the point of recognition. Running along this is the fact that Hyeon-min’s daughter is in the hospital for a heart transplant from a very specific donor. Only able to accept Beta donors with similar to identical organs, this movies draws black market organ collecting with a facial recreation expert. When a fellow face creator named Jeong Seon-yeong (Yuh-ah Song) gets involved, things get creepy and horrific.

I’ll make this face to look like me. The Penguin. Muhahaha.

I was thoroughly confused at parts of this movie. Nobody was really given a name and the main actor looked like The Penguin from Batman. By the end, when everything is coming together, you feel you missed some part because the haunting ghost has something to do with something else, and it just all doesn’t make sense. There were some plot holes in this film when it came to the payoff twist.

As far as fright, this film delivered on a distant cousin with the American version of The Grudge. Now that movie is the only Asian horror film whose remake scared me more than the original. The long black hair and pale face with red eyes was reused in this one and was accompanied by some sort of scratching noise or something. But it is kinda sad when you can call every time and how they’re going to

What’s going on here?

deliver a jumpy scene. Through the mirror? Girl looks out the window? Eye in the box? Yep. It lacked a little bit of “Boo.”

It’s not one of those remarkable films you see that are made by Asian directors (this one was Korean) that has more than just fright, it has substance. This one fell short on script and delivery. For me I can never tell how good the foreign actors are, but you could kinda tell in this one. The whole film was pretty much lackluster. It took uninteresting scientific ideas and made them mix somehow. Oh well, better luck next time, Sang-gon Yoo. 4.5 out of 10.

 


Oldboy: Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

Based on the Japanese manga (where all good stories come from) written by Nobuaki Minegishi, what incredible things can I say about Oldboy? Considered the best in the Revenge trilogy, Oldboy comes from a very visceral place combining elements of all

Hammer time.

kinds of storytelling into one film. It’s got revenge and tragedy, theatrical protestations and all the heart and music of an opera. People have said (CNN has said) that it is one of the 10 best Asian films ever made. Let’s back that up and rephrase. There’s no need to include Asian in that statement. Ten best films ever made? Sounds good to me.

I’ve seen Oldboy twice now and I’ve been thoroughly entertained both times. The story is fresh and there’s just enough plot and action that keeps you captivated to the edge of your seat. Visually striking, poetic in the way it is formulated and the scenes are shot… Think about the snazziest guy you know that does things in such an elegant way and give him a beat-up haircut and a hammer. That’s this movie in a nutshell.

If you laugh, then the world laughs with you…

Revenge, as I’ve talked about in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is played with in this movie as well. Just when you think you have the good and bad guy figured out, it turns itself on its head. Sympathy is the keyword in all these films. You are meant to feel sympathetic towards all characters in this film. Nobody is spared a reason for doing what they do, and that makes it all the easier to see this as a truly brutally honest humanistic film.

Basic plot, shall we? Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) was kidnapped after a drunken night out around his daughter’s birthday. He vanishes from society for 15 years and we get to see a montaged version of that process. Through Oh Dae-su’s diaries, we see the tortured mind that has no idea of his crimes or who he wronged. He writes down every name he can remember in case he has to seek

I forgot to mention Ji-tae Yu, but he did some great work in this movie too.

revenge or beg forgiveness, it’s all up in the air at this point. But, with no reason or rhyme, Oh Dae-su is released after 15 long years of seeing no one and having no company other than a T.V. This leads him on a calculated and cold chase for the man who put him away for seemingly no reason.

Choi Min-sik is a theatrical master in this film. I’m pretty sure Park Chan-wook liked him so much that he brought him back for Lady Vengeance for that reason (different character, just as good). He has a great sense of theatrical, dramatic moments, and he takes his time in delivering lines. That’s what I found interesting about this movie (and Lady Vengeance). Choi Min-sik gathers his thoughts (as a person not on camera would) and says things as if he is choosing his words carefully (no script style). It’s a very unique and non-traditional way of acting, and I enjoy it every time I see him (i.e. watch I Saw The Devil).

The cinematography in this film is a bit more fluid, but you see the same basic ideas come across in this one that you saw in Sympathy for Mr. Revenge. Long shots, wide angles, an extreme focus on the bigger picture. This movie has a fight scene from a side angle that is about 5 minutes long and took 17 takes in 3 days to make. Uncut and visceral, it’s realistic fight scenes like this that make martial arts films being made today possible. (You can see a similar scene in Tony Jaa’s The Protector.)

The plot is fantastic and the cast is great as usual. It’s movies like this that only come around once in a lifetime that everything comes together perfectly to make a film that transcends genre, style, and overall movie like quality. You feel you are watching something more real and ethereal than you expected to see with something created by man. I can’t say anything bad about this movie and I feel, for all audiences (above 13, I’d say) this movie is worth watching again and

A strange sense of Korean comedy…

again. Moviemakers out there, if you don’t already have this for your collection, get it. This should change the movie industry (hopefully) for the next 20 years. And I really hope Spike Lee doesn’t remake it…

Anyways, 10 out of 10. Obviously.

 

 


The Red Shoes: Korea’s Hans Christian Andersen

First of all, this movie should be renamed the pink shoes, because clearly (unless I’m colorblind) those shoes were pink. Not that color matters, but it came off as weird… Anyways, this was a pretty satisfactory horror film from South Korea about the old fairy tale about the crazy broad who couldn’t stop shindigging in her red pumps. In this take, a curse is placed on the shoes and you should probably make sure to watch your ankles, cause you’ll get cut off by the shin.

The story centers around Sun-jae (Kim Hye-su) a working wife who is semi-happy with her life. Her husband doles on their daughter, Tae-su (Park Yeoh-ah) and leaves very little love for his wife. One day Sun-jae comes home a little too early from stalking their daughter on her way to dance class. She finds her husband cheating on her and

That’s how the movie kicks off. Bang.

promptly leaves with Tae-su in search of a happier life (a little Pursuit of Happiness, but completely different).

In a run down apartment opposite of the subway, Sun-jae is struggling to start up her eye clinic with the help of hipster before it was called hipster contractor, In-cheol (Kim Sung-chu). With a jealous daughter who misses her father and wishes he mother was gone instead, Sun-jae takes solace in her fancy shoe collection. And then, on the subway, the perfect pair comes along… of… pink, shoes.

A mother and daughter, on a mission… for shoes.

Things start going wrong, horrific visions, her daughter is becoming jealous of a pair of shoes she can’t even fit into, and life is just becoming stressful in general. The perfect elements for a gory psychological thriller. Except for the ending. When a movie has 3 different endings (2 short of LOTR: ROTK) then you know you have a problem. It means the writers second guessed themselves and thought the movie needed more closure/explanation than it actually needed. And that is exactly what happened. You’ll see once you watch the movie, it’s not that bad up until a bit of a struggle with the end. It was 20 minutes too long.

But I loved the way this movie delivered the horror. A lot of it dealt with the wait and spook (jumpy scenes) but the music really dictated the tempo. There were screeching violins, nails on a chalkboard, offbeat music rhythms that really made you feel unsettled. There were some of those psychological scenes that dealt with disturbing images (i.e., one example – not a ruiner – but bird in a bloodbath sink) and a lot of tensions between

Beautiful and tragic.

family members on some adult levels. The director and the cast/crew had a good sense of what creeps people out and what works in a classical sense, and they nailed all the major points.

This is one of those horror movies though that brings in a whole lot more than just horror. This movie tackles family relations, materialism and consumerism (with the shoes and all that, even an ad agency), a woman’s self image and outer appearance, and even feet fetishes. It was done in a very deliberately symbolic manner, and my analytical film mind actually picked up on those cues. This film ended up being a more intelligent horror movie than I thought it could be. That’s worth applauding. The acting was creepily good, special shout out to Kim Hye-su, the star, and a little girl who had to take on more than she probably bargained for, being yelled at by adults (proud of you, Park Yeoh-ah). Overall it was a very visually disturbing movie with an underlying message and too long of an ending. That all adds up to movie you should view for yourself and decide whether you like it or not. Have fun! 6.3 out of 10.

Is it over yet? Who knows…

 


What Women Want: A Chinese Take

I can’t explain what it is, but the original Mel Gibson version of this film has just stuck with me for years. I loved it and loved the idea behind it. Almost like a comedians joke, it is true that men can’t think behind what women are thinking. Combine that with Mel Gibson’s attitude and apparent macho sex appeal, and you got yourself a movie with comedy, wit, and a combining of the sexes.

And the same thing goes for the Chinese version of this film. Starring Andy Lau and

Some real chemistry between two beautiful Asians.

Gong Li, these two had a chemistry on film that wasn’t present as much between Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The humor is all there in both films, it just comes off as more of a real feeling when watching this 2011 remake. Maybe the Chinese know something about gender relations than we do…

Basic plot. Sun Zigang (Andy Lau) is a successful and macho advertising agent. He knows sex sells to a male audience and does it in a very male oriented way. After all his success and the expectation of a promotion, along comes Li Yilong (Gong Li). She’s young, sassy and successful, and her headstrong attitude scares Sun. He must learn to work under her when she takes his sought after promotion, only to struggle against her managerial style. After taking some female products home, Sun is struck by electrocuted by a fish lamp in his bathtub.

Andy Lau as a secure male. In red heels.

That’s where everything changes. Suddenly, Sun Zigang can hear the thoughts of women. Not all people, like a useful power would, just women. And he finds out that all the women at his work hate him, even his own daughter from his newly divorced wife. With this massive hit to his ego, he must save face and do well in his job all at the same time.

I keep coming back to it, but the idea of a plot like this fascinates me. Most men in this situation would use this power to manipulate women. Andy Lau does this to an extent. But to learn that women can be just as mean to men (just not saying it) is a scary and

Gong Li really is a beautiful woman.

depressing thing. I hope this idea/ script was written by a women, or it wouldn’t be as true and enlightening and this film becomes.

I’m sure there are those people who write this off as just a romantic comedy. Why look into it any more than that? But why not? The idea that maybe being able to be honest and truthful with one another (even if we don’t know that we are) can make things better. It can improve relationships, maybe break them. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. But honesty is at the heart of this movie, and that’s what I connected so much with. Listen, I’ve not had a bunch of good luck with female friends in the past. They back stabbed me, left me, didn’t understand me, and I tried to communicate with them on a real level. Maybe that’s something a lot of people can’t handle. Unrelenting trust. That’s the kind of difficulty this movie idea tries to handle.

Ya got beat, Mel.

The acting is great, just like the original, but the chemistry and relationships seem a bit more realistic in this Chinese version. I liked the awkward Asian stereotype at play in the way that it was an ebb and flow between the characters. Nobody ever really said what they wanted to say, and that proves how hard it is to be trusting and honest, completely, with other human beings. I saw a side of China that you don’t often get to see, and it reassures me that not everywhere other than America is so unrelated to us. The music was upbeat and modern, and the comedy was nicely paced and quirky. I gotta say, Mel Gibson, you got beat by Andy Lau. 7.1 out of 10.


Repo! The Genetic Opera

In a crossover genre that reminded me a bit of the only other big exposure I’ve had to operetta style plays/shows (i.e. Cats), Repo! The Genetic Opera was a twist and melding of something I’m not used to seeing at all. And, big plus, in the form of a movie. And what more could seal this musical deal? Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saws 2-4, was the director. That’s a pretty sweet marmalade right there. And I was surprisingly not bored during this horror/rock opera/film extravaganza.

In a strange dystopian intro scene that may remind those of us who have seen Mystery Men of a similar grimy town flyby, there is a new way of living in the city. And that is prologued by the GraveRobber (Terrance Zdunich). In this new dark and sinister world, people are living longer. How, you may ask? Through the use of artificial organs. You

GraveRobber, the teller of our tale. (Is that a cat from Cats right next to him?)

can pay for these organs with a monthly fee, but it must be paid on time to GeneCo. If not, “Rotti” Largo (Paul Sorvino) will send his RepoMen after you and remove it from you.

The story focuses around a doctor Nathan Wallace (Anthony Head) and his sick daughter, Shilo (Alexa Vega). In a story of sick and twisted nip/tuck pleasure, betrayal and love, and discovered identities, Repo! The Genetic Opera combines the operatic style of singing with the gruesomeness of shock rock. What I found surprising, coming from a director who has done such a violent and intestine filled series, gave a bit of humor and poise to the blood and guts. I was never grossed out (as if this film or any other could do that) by the events unfolding before me, it was more with the type of music and subject matter. It was a winning combo, to be sure.

Paris Hilton, can you tell?

I liked the subject matter (dystopian world of the morbid) and found it to be a simple enough plot to get across with how many underlying motives were at play. What I was semi-impressed with was the singing. Anthony Head, star of Buffy and featured on my favorite British comedy, Little Britain, was a phenomenal singer. Alexa Vega, a bit weak, which surprised me. Terrence Zdunich was a phenomenally good stage presence in front of the camera. I enjoyed his pop out of a trash can every once in a while. He had the Cats vibe down. His morbid look was appealing and flashy, almost like a Rum Tum Tugger (although this guy didn’t do any theater before this, so far as I can tell…).

Some surprising cast though in this film. Paul Sorvino, star of musicals and dramas and a couple of Italian Mafioso films, was a good presence, but weak as a counter character/villain to Nathan (Anthony Head) the age difference was a bit of a problem for the plot device they had to deal with, and so it just came off as odd. His singing was a bit weak too, but I think that’s something that happens when you have to speak/sing lines in a rock opera. Sarah Brightman, English singing extraordinaire was delightfully pleasant for as small of a role as she was given. Her

A little bit of blood never hurt Buffy…

singing sent a few chills down the old spine.

And there’s even more! Throw in Bill Moseley, actor from a shit-ton of horror films, including a few Rob Zombie vehicles. And Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy (industrial metal band for those of you who don’t know)? Who knew? I could barely put the names and the faces together with this nip/tuck of a performance. Oh, and Paris Hilton for sex appeal. No big surprise there.

Enjoy that open wound, guy.

In an hour and a half of rockin’ and a rollin’, you’re exposed to the world of blood and guts, drums and guitar. I’ve never seen a movie like this before, and this sets the bar sort of high on expectations (and no, I won’t be watching Rent anytime soon). So move aside The Wiz, because there’s a new favorite musical film in town. And it’s got more of an edge to it. So strap in and hide your organs for Repo! A 6.4 out of 10.

 


I Love You Phillip Morris

This is one of those movies you don’t think much of when you see it first released, but comes back to surprise you. I had no idea how much homosexuality, adult themes, and gay sex would be portrayed in this film. At all. I sat up late the night I watched this, clutching my pillow, wondering if Ace Ventura was really kissing Obi-Wan. It’s not that I’m opposed to the lifestyle and part of the sexual spectrum these characters lay on. It’s just so surprising to see how committed actors can be to a role they’re given. And it can turn out to be the best of performances.

In I Love You Phillip Morris, Steven Jay Russell (portrayed by Jim Carrey) is a local police man and loving husband to his wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann) and daughter. The

Carrey and Mann, a loving couple?

only thing he can’t get over is that his mother gave him up for adoption when he was a baby. In search of his true mother, he finds that she gave him up… and kept her other children.

With his life’s dream fulfilled and ruined all in one fell swoop, Russell is involved in a bad car accident, changing his life around. He resolves to live his life the way he wanted to for so long. And that life he will pursue will be as a gay man. I thought the first angle of this movie, never having read the accounts of Stephen Jay Russell or anything related, was going to be about him being a con man. I didn’t realize he was going to find his homosexual roots before he met Phillip Morris in jail, but that was just my movie plotline brain buzzing. All the more power to him, because his cons and jail escapes were unbelievably top notch.

A little bit of the lavish life for a pair of gay men.

So Russell meets other men, some sexual interaction (AKA butt sex. I must add this scene, although dramatized, shocked the shit out of me.) and he meets his Latino boyfriend, Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro). After his losing bout with AIDS, Russell goes for one last big haul, and gets himself thrown in jail. But that wasn’t before trying to escape in the only way he knew how. Con city, bro.

While in jail, Russell meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). The gentle and noble disposition of Morris changes something in Russell’s deceiving nature changes. He looks out for someone other than his

The moment they meet. In jail. How touching.

own interests and finds true love in a world that had given up on him and his ways. It is at this point that Russell will do anything in order to get Phillip Morris out of jail and to make a stable life for the both of them. As luxurious as that may come off…

What overall impressed me about this film were Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor’s performances. They were so convincing as a loving couple onscreen that you had to root for them, even if one of them was a con man. The kisses felt real, the holding and touching was that of a chemistry ridden couple. And by couple, I mean just any kind of couple. Gay, bisexual, straight, biracial, you name it, they showed the characteristics of two people in love. By the end of the movie, no matter how homophobic the person watching may be, you came to like and accept Russell and Morris for who they are. That’s something that can cross all lines when it comes to the world of movies.

Some of that steamy man love.

The other thing that I loved about this movie were the cons. And based on real cons, as far as I can see. This entire movie was based on Steve McVicker’s novel about Steven Jay Russell’s life entitled, I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks. These cons are so well played out that you could only believe they would work in the movies. Or, in this case, Texas or one of the Southern states. Yes, a slight against Southerners from the liberal movie makers, who knew? But how well and entertaining they were to watch one right after the other. You felt shame for the law enforcers and businessmen by the end of the film for being so able to be swindled.

This movie takes a whole new approach to the con man, and to relationships in general. How far would one of us go to break their love out of jail? To risk it all one something illegal in order to see their love happy and smiling? That is exactly what Stephen Jay Russell did. And the end of the movie let’s us know that he is serving a life sentence under constant surveillance, while Phillip Morris was finally let out in 2006. This movie of the con man, set in the 1980’s and 90’s, really explores an era that was exploring itself. This movie shows the liberation of the man from his chains, both

Good form.

literally and symbolically. And Jim Carrey gave one of his best quirky drama performances in a long time. I love all of his work, and this is another title to notch in his bedpost. Gay con artist. A well deserved 8.8 out of 10.


Priest: Just as Good as Legion

I’d been waiting quite a while to see this movie with my roommate. Ian and I always get that excited feeling around our college finals when its time to take some time off and go catch a flick. And catch a flick we did. One of the best flicks of the year, if I do say so myself. Priest, another incarnation of Paul Bettany portraying the badass side of himself in real life, but in a movie. Like Legion, Paul Bettany’s character descends from his high throne in order to protect those around him. And this is the way that I like to perceive Paul Bettany. A man of the people. And it must be quite true.

Priest, to put it simply, is the story of a priest. But not any ordinary priest. This particular priest is of an order of priests that

Paul Bettany. He messed up that familiar.

was created for one sole purpose. To eradicate vampires. And not your everyday human-turned ¬†vampires. These vampires are creatures, fearful of ¬†light and hungry for human flesh and blood. And they can only be defeated by the light they fear or priests, the greatest super-weapons on the face of the Earth. And the priests have done this. Now in retirement in the “near future,” these priests roam the streets hated by their fellow humans for representing the state of fear they all once held.

But not is all well. The vampires were placed in “camps” in order to repress any more outbreaks. But they have risen in great numbers to attack the humans once again in their high-walled cities. Led by Black Hat (Karl Urban), these creatures will stop at nothing to kill every human on Earth. So, once Priest’s family has been assaulted and his daughter kidnapped, he must pick up his crosses once again in order to protect those he loves. With the help of Hicks (Cam Gigandet), and a fellow Priestess, (Maggie Q) this rag-tag group of vampire hunters must run against the clock in order to save their world. And do they? Well, please watch it and find out.

Nice tatoo.

Well, let me just say 50% of this movie is top-notch actors. Paul Bettany, it goes without saying. His dramatic, A-rated acting never fails to amaze me, despite whatever role he may take on. (Some of my favorites?: Knight’s Tale, Master and Commander, A Beautiful Mind, and, of course, Legion) And, in my opinion, Paul Bettany always gets better. Maggie Q gives a great supporting role as a fellow Priestess. Despite most of her role being focused on action, she brings a

Maggie Q. Always looks good walking away from an explosion.

dramatic/romantic element to the movie. Karl Urban, for the third time in his career, pulls of an action villain worthy of the movie. And Cam Gigandet, well… he’s just doing his own thing. Not anything special. And Brad Dourif (Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings) makes a surprise appearance as a vampire “cure” seller. All-in-all, Paul Bettany carries the acting load in this film.

Nice save. And nice movie.

The director Scott Stewart, is primarily a special effects guy. Other than Priest, he’s done (surprise) Legion. But his special effects really come out in this film. Probably why they released this in 3-D. But I really feel (although I’ve never read the graphic novel) that this movie does the graphic novel justice. Or I would hope that it did. I really thoroughly enjoy films like this, and I feel there will always be people out there like me that enjoy action films with a new twist. And it’s movies like this that really give me hope for a future of movies that don’t necessarily look promising. So thank you Scott Stewart and thank you Min-Woo Hyung, the creator of Priest, for bringing about what I looked forward to for 5 months. 8.6 out of 10.