Archive for drama

Outrage

Posted in Japanese Cinema with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2012 by Cristina Blackwater

Outrage – 2010

 

plot: The boss of a major crime syndicate orders his lieutenant to bring a rogue gang of drug traffickers in line, a job that gets passed on to his long-suffering subordinate. The plot concerns a struggle for power amongst Tokyo’s Yakuza clans, today just as likely to be playing the stock market as shaking down pachinko parlors, over which the Sanmo-kai clan holds sway in the face of constant betrayal and ever-changing allegiances. Sanmo-kai chairman Ototomo (played by Kitano himself) learns that his henchman Ikemoto has struck an alliance with the drug-dealing Murase family, and is not best pleased, to say the least. The ensuing retaliation triggers an orgy of killings, territorial invasions and score settling while law enforcement officers, too corrupt to intervene

 Kitano is fucking back with a vengeance. let’s all bow and thank the japanese film gods. after laying off the yakuza genre for nearly 10 years, master Takeshi Kitano brings us Outrage, once again starring himself as the main character. Outrage follows the ins and outs of Yakuza politics of revenge and atonement between bosses, brothers, and cohorts, and an unstoppable backstabbing bloody avalanche of awesome.

 

 

 

the winning recipe here is the ultra violence topped off with irresistible black humor. you gotta love it when the fatalities and horrible, blood filled yakuza situations you are presented with also make you let out an out loud chuckle or two. i mean there’s a reason why Tarantino loves this guy so much, right? right.

 

 

one way Outrage differs from Kitano’s other notorious yakuza movies, is that his character, and generally the story itself, lacks his distinctive outcast-inner struggle, the nuances in the people involved are put aside for a more straight forward kind of story telling, but after all, as Kitano remarked publicly about his making of Outrage, he is giving the people what they want – no pretense of artistic embellishments, but rather blunt, cruel acts of violence of the professional criminal devoid of any romanticism.

 

 

so sit back and enjoy the bloody ride, and then, if you’re hungry for more, remember this is the same guy who brought us masterpieces such as Brother, Hana-bi, and Boiling Point. it’s never too late for a good re-ash.

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Another Earth

Posted in Sci-Fi Cinema with tags , , , , on January 1, 2012 by Cristina Blackwater

Another Earth – 2011

 

plot: Rhoda Williams, a bright young woman accepted into MIT’s astrophysics program, aspires to explore the cosmos. A brilliant composer, John Burroughs, has just reached the pinnacle of his profession and is about to have a second child with his loving wife. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, tragedy strikes and the lives of these strangers become irrevocably intertwined. Estranged from the world and the selves they once knew, the two outsiders begin an unlikely love affair and reawaken to life. But when one is presented with the chance of a lifetime opportunity to travel to the other Earth and embrace an alternative reality, which new life will they choose? 

Another Earth is a 2011 American science fantasy/drama film directed by Mike Cahill in his feature film debut. The film stars William Mapother and Brit Marling. It premiered at the 27th Sundance Film Festival in January 2011. It was released in dramatic competition. Variety reported, “[It] has been deemed one of the more highly praised pics of the fest as it received a standing ovation after the screening and strong word of mouth from buyers and festgoers.”

this movie is so beautiful and touching. every outcast loner will identify with some aspect of it. Rhoda is a girl who did something terrible and unforgivable, but who is trying to find forgiveness one day at a time. we watch her struggle and grow and make mistakes trying to mend the old ones. i almost don’t want to say much of anything about the actual story development. i found it somehow similar to Primer (one of my favorite movies of all times), although the two movies have very little in common.

one day a new planet appears in the sky. as time goes by, and the planet moves closer and closer, it is discovered that it is an exact mirror planet to ours, an Earth II, if you will. not only the planet is identical, but as first contact is achieved, we also find out that Earth II is inhabited by duplicate versions of ourselves who mirror our earthly circumstances. Rhoda starts a deep inner journey. did her mirror self commit the same mistakes?

i found many other reviews out there to be misleading to say the least. Another Earth is neither a cut and dry sci-fi nor a romantic movie. it’s not about a love story, and it’s not about life on another planet. the sci-fi theme is a contour for a beautiful (i know I’m repeating myself with this word but there is just so much beauty in this movie), in-depth exploration of the frailty of the human heart, particularly to the way us outcasts feel about emotions, and the world around us. is another world just the next step of running away from our problems? like changing city and start anew, but on a bigger scale? or can there be redemption, real redemption, on the other side?

from wikipedia: The idea behind Another Earth first developed out of director Mike Cahill and actress Brit Marling speculating as to what it would be like were one to encounter one’s own self. In order to explore the possibility on a large scale, they devised the concept of a duplicate Earth. The visual representation of the duplicate planet was deliberately made to evoke the Moon, as Cahill was deeply inspired by the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing. the movie was shot in the director’s hometown to cut down expenses. William Mapother consented to work on Another Earth for $100 a day, being strongly drawn by the film’s subject.

once again, indie cinema seems to pull all the right strings to my heart.

Bellflower

Posted in Strange Love with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2011 by Cristina Blackwater

Bellflower – 2011

plot: Bellflower follows two friends as they venture out into the world to begin their adult lives. Literally all their free time is spent building flame-throwers and weapons of mass destruction in hopes that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang “Mother Medusa”. While waiting for the world to end, their call to excitement comes unexpectedly when one of them meets a charismatic young woman and falls hard in love. Quickly integrated into a new group of friends, they set off on a journey of betrayal, love, hate, infidelity and extreme violence more devastating and fiery than any of their apocalyptic fantasies.

Let me start off by saying words can hardly explain how much i loved this movie. so pardon me if this will be perhaps yet another very partial pretend-review of a movie, but after all, this is my damn movie blog so you guys deal with it or leave now. Bellflower is up there in the top 3 movies i have watched this year, next to Drive and I Saw The Devil. it touched me in so many ways. so many real, raw, visceral ways. but let’s start with a little back story.

Bellflower is an indie 2011 movie written and directed by Evan Glodell, who is also the protagonist of the movie. it’s essentially, at the poster says, a love story. of many kinds. first and foremost we have Aiden and Woodrow (Evan Glodell), two best friends who move to LA from Wisconsin, with a common passion for Mad Max and homemade pyrotechnics. they are set on building their own homemade flamethrower and a replica of the Medusa car, in the hope that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang

in the meantime, you know, they’re just boys being boys. there’s lots of partying, laughing, fighting, and especially drinking. tons and tons and tons of it. then there’s the girl. there’s always a girl, isn’t there? Woodrow meets her and instantly falls for her, and then shit starts hitting the fan. you could very easily compare her to a Fight Club’s Marla of some kind, or even better, to an Eternal Sunshine’s Clementine. the girl is wild and young and carefree and  nutty on the side. the two of them, on their first date, decide to go on a spontaneous road trip to Texas, and are pretty much inseparable since.

this seemingly strange but mostly romantic movie turns progressively (MUCH) darker as their relationship crumbles, and the rest is a voyage that takes on surreal, truly apocalyptic notes that more than one reviews rightly describes it as a generational statement. the people in the movie try to find themselves, and try to find something bigger than themselves, something to believe in even in a post apocalyptic fucked up world that seldom offers means to grab onto reality.

and what a grand journey that is! Evan Glodell worked on this movie for years, shot it with a non existing budget and a crew of 11 dedicated people and built most of the props, including the flame throwers and muscle car. also, at some point in the movie he grows a beard and is a total fucking babe. but i digress. Glodell not only wrote, produce, directed, co-edited, and starred in his movie, but he also built a custom camera for it, a “Coatwolf Model II digital cinema camera who looks like a steampunk wet dream, from the old-school bellows on the front to the hand-machined nameplate on the side”

what more do you need as an invitation to hurry up and watch this? how about a hot beard picture?

alright, i lied. that wasn’t for you. it was entirely for my pleasure.

seriously though.. this movie is awesome. i hope this is the start of a very long, brilliant career for this young director who managed to make yet another indie gem out of virtually nothing. and to hell with the huge hollywood blockbusters.

Bedevilled

Posted in K Cinema with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by Cristina Blackwater

BEDEVILLED – 2010

plot: Hae-won is a beautiful single woman in her thirties who works at a bank in the Seoul city. She leads a busy life until she becomes a witness to an attempted murder case, and at the same time, things get complicated at work. When things get out of hand she is forced to take a vacation so she heads for ‘Moodo’, a small undeveloped island, where she had once visited to see her grandparents. And where she had befriended a girl named Bok-nam who stills writes to Hae-won asking her to visit despite the fact that Hae-won never bothered to reply. Upon arriving at the island, Hae-won is shocked to see everyone treating Bok-nam like a slave. As practically the only young woman on the island, she is a plaything for all the men and a free laborer for the women. Sick of all the inhumane treatment, Bok-nam had tried to escape the island several times in the past but had failed each time. She begs Hae-won to help her escape the place, but Hae-won remains indifferent not wanting to be involved in complicated situations. When Bok-nam realizes that her own daughter will follow her footsteps, she tries to escape the island with her daughter. But something horrible happens. And when she loses the only thing that had kept her going because of Hae-won’s negligence, Bok-nam takes a sickle in her hand for revenge.

IGNORANCE IS BLISS.

How many times have you heard these words (besides listening to a certain Face to Face album..) and silently nodded, making them yours, agreeing that indeed “bless them, cause they have no idea?”

well, think again.

Bedevilled is the 2010 cinematic debut of south korean director Jang Cheol-so,  and stars 2 heroines, Yeong-hie Seo as Bok-nam and Ji Sung-won as Hae-won. Two women to fulfill roles that lie at opposite sides of society, the glamorous, metropolitan lifestyle of Seoul vs the rural simple-minded living of a remote island. Both women have been subject of violence and abuse at some point in their lives, but Hae-won escaped that world as a little girl and became a tough, kind of bratty single woman living in a big city, while Bok-nam remained on the island, forever a victim of domestic violence and constant humiliation.

Bok-nam has a daughter, an innocent little girl who is the only thing to keep her going despite all the verbal and physical abuse. Her mind is set on freeing her daughter from that horrible life and taking her to “magical” Seoul, where she believes her life will change and be peaceful just like her friend’s, Hae-won.

But turns out Hae-won is not willing to help. The past difficulties in her life turned into the kind of person that will walk away and keep quiet in front of danger. Bok-nam reaches the point where she is desperate to escape and save herself and her daughter, and while trying to do so, something horrible happens. And when she loses the last thing that kept her from falling into complete madness, she walks right in the hands of the cold-blooded path of revenge, sickle in her hand, her thirst unquenchable.

This is where the fun part starts (and will keep you glued to your seat until the end):

in the first half of the movie, you are forced to watch a woman receive an unacceptable amount of abuse of every kind and as a woman myself, all i wanted was to step in and fucking scream “somebody fucking do something or i’ll blow all of your fucking brains out!!”. But hey, she gets the drift eventually, and starts shedding blood left and right. We are now in front of a heartbreaking drama suddenly turned into epic motherfucking slasher.

BLISS!

you see this? this is the face of revenge, bitch.

this movie was so good, so exciting and so entertaining that brought me back from my (way too) long silence.

not good enough of a reason to make you hurry up and watch it? here’s another hint: the woman gives the most epic blowjob to a knife (yes, you heard me, a fucking knife) you will ever see in your life. interested now?

there is much more that i could say about the events in the movie but i don’t want to be too spoilery.

i guess i should also mention the (very few) negative notes: towards the end, the movie gets a bit sloppy, and offers a little too many “shocking” revelations, that are typical of the asian cinema “twist” ending. but all in all, this was only a matter of literally 5 minutes out of over 2  hours, so i’m gonna give it a 8.5/10 and very eagerly suggest that you find yourself a copy right NOW.

You will thank me later.

because ignorance is NOT bliss, motherfuckers.

 

Epitaph

Posted in K Cinema with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2010 by Cristina Blackwater

Epitaph – 2007

Plot: An old doctor, circa 1979, discovers that the Ansaeng (Safe Life) Hospital, one of the most modern medical facilities in the colonial period, is about to be demolished. This sets off reminiscences of his internship days at the hospital in 1942, when he got caught up in a number of supernatural episodes

Alright kiddos, now we’re talking! back to business with a damn good korean horror piece.

Epitaph is the 2007 debut film of the Jeong Brothers (and let me tell you how happy i am to finally discover some korean “brothers” in the filmmaking industry!).  it’s a refined, intelligent and surprisingly effective Gothic horror.

hooray! not all hope is lost when it comes to contemporary asian horror. first of all let me tell you that this movie looks fantastic: stunning visuals, great soundtrack, and good acting. the whole package. plus, it’s actually scary! i was pleasantly surprised to be shaken up by some parts of the movie.

let me try to break it down briefly, tho: because for some people, especially those who are not used to the typical flashback, time-lag structure of many asian flicks, the narrative might seem quite confusing (but really, it isn’t)

The story is roughly divided into three segments. In the first, the young Jeong-nam/Masao finds himself attracted to a stunning-looking young girl’s dead body, allegedly a victim of a failed double suicide.

The second segment, flagrantly influenced by OldBoy (it even repeats a key line of dialogue, “I love you, Ajjeossi” — a generic Korean word for a man some years older), is a tale of Asako , the only survivor of a fatal car crash. Asako is haunted by the awful ghost of her mother, and Doctor Lee , convinced that this is the working of her survivor’s guilt, attempts to cure her.

Finally, the hospital’s surgeons Dr. Kaneda and Dr. Kim Dong-won find themselves wrapped up in some serial murders of Japanese soldiers.

here’s a picture of the three doctors at work

the second segment, the tale of little Asako, is the most effective one, and is also the one that will give you the shivers.

so here you have it, a good, beautiful horror movie that will keep you entertained on your next movie night.

Mother

Posted in K Cinema with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2010 by Cristina Blackwater

Mother – madeo – 2009

plot: Hye-ja is a ginseng vendor and an unlicensed acupuncturist in a small town in southern South Korea. She dotes on her son, Do-joon, who is 27, unemployed, and mentally incapacitated on some level, which Hye-ja seems to ignore.A high school girl is found dead on the roof of an abandoned building, and the local detectives arrest Do-joon based on circumstantial evidence. They coerce him to sign a confession and quickly imprison him. Hye-ja, distraught and convinced he is innocent, searches for the real killer, uncovering many secrets from the townspeople.

Hey there! long time no see!

I’ve been dying to update Zombie Cupcakes for a while now, but work has been so crazy and, and… ok. I have no excuse. also, it’s been so long since I last wrote a movie review I almost forgot how to do it!

BUT, and here’s how I can make up for the time where I didn’t give you all enough attention or information, i am back with one of those perfect 10’s that don’t need much introduction (also that will make it easier for me to get back into the game of things.. totally selfish, yes). it’s been a long time since i didn’t bring you a masterpiece.. so here it is: Mother.

Madeo is a 2009 movie directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories of Murder) about the strength, the passion, and the unconditional love of all mothers. more specifically, about the relationship of a mother (played by korean superstar Kim Hye-ja, whom the director made the film for) and her mentally impaired 28-year-old son, who all of a sudden is convicted of murder. i really don’t want to say much more than that, you’re just gonna have to watch it. the journey of a mother pushing every kind of limit, physical, psychological, and most of all moral, to protect her only and beloved son.

this is not the first time Bong Joon-ho brings to the table 80’s set police methods and procedures. he did it with Memories of Murder first, which is considered to be one of the best korean dramas of all times. now, if you want me to be absolutely honest, I never got into Memories of Murder (and I tried SO hard), while on the other side I absolutely fucking loved The Host (you can read more about that here), so my expectations for Mother were right in the middle.

and what a pleasant surprise! the movie is deep and wrong and shows exactly how far the love of a mother can go. it pushes boundaries while keeping you interested the whole way through. it reminded me of Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance more than a couple times, which is a HUGE plus..

also, the photography is heartbreakingly beautiful

seriously, hurry up and watch this.

and prepare the tissues, because it will make you cry. i warned you.

Zombie Cupcakes out!

Crying Fist

Posted in K Cinema with tags , , , , , on July 12, 2009 by Cristina Blackwater

Crying Fist (Jumeogi unda) – 2005

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Down on his luck and desperate, Gang Tae-shik is doing it hard on the streets. He’s lost the respect of his son, and his wife has thrown him out of home. Now the former silver medallist of the Asian Games is selling himself on the street as a human punching bag. To wipe his mounting debt and regain his plummeting dignity, Gang sets his sights on the amateur boxing title. Yoo Sang-hwan is a young rebel with few prospects and even less ambition. Living for gang fights and muggings, he soon finds himself behind bars in a juvenile detention centre. But his penchant for punching has one guard suggest he join the boxing club. The amateur boxing title provides, for the first time, direction in his life. Gang and Yoo face off for the battle of their lives.

Crying Fist is a 2005 movie written and directed by Seung-wan Ryoo. It stars one of my all time favorites, Choi Min-sik (Oldboy, Failan, A Quiet Family) as Tae-shik as an old boxer who’s personal and financial life are falling apart, and Seung-beom Ryu (the director’s brother) as Sang-hwan, a troubled kid who finds redemption through boxing.

The movie is over two hours long, but never gets boring. Even the photography alone is a good reason to approach it, because it’s so beautiful and moving and detailed that it will be impossible not to appreciate it. The plot unfolds slowly but at  good pace, while we follow the two separate stories of two men trying to regain dignity as human beings, and the results of what’s on the screen is wonderful and touching and heartbreaking all at the same time.

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Both the actors deliver such a stunning performance that you won’t be able to help but sympathise with them and it will make you want to know what happens next. Choi Min-sik is so incredibly talented it’s almost unfair. Another review from Imdb summed up the movie perfectly, so i’m just gonna quote it this time:

Many will think this is just another tear-jerking melodrama. It is not, I guarantee, but you would not be able to appreciate the real thing unless you have once gone through your own hell in the life. I cried with Ryu at the end of the movie, I felt his sorrow and happiness so real just as they were mine, it was mentally painful.

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I am not an expert in professional sports movies, but personally Crying Fist reminded me of The Wrestler in many ways. Just as in Aronofsky‘s flick, the movie is more about the characters rather than the discipline, which becomes sort of a media used by both of them to find some kind of redemption, and a reason not to give up yet.

I think if you liked the Wrestler you’re gonna love this one as well. I’m not gonna forget this movie anytime soon, and i’ll keep it as an example as of why korean cinema is so special to me.