Good Job, Mr. Vet

Wow, good job indeed. Just from the trailer you would assume this to be your typical Korean cop-movie about a cop trying to bring down criminals. Yes, that is what happens but there is so much more. What else is there here, you might ask?

Comedy.  But then again, what else can one expect when Oh Dal-su is in the cast?

The storyline is about a cop investigating a so called accident his buddy got into because of a sociopath.  This actual storyline doesn’t really exist until around the 30-45 min mark.  Rather, we have the first 30 mins setting up the main cop, Seo Do-cheo terms of character motivations and connections.  The set up of lesser characters are done through smart dialogue and visuals to really cement home the type of character these people will play throughout the film.  The first 30-45 min mark we actually do see characters from the over lying arc spread throughout which I find a very interesting style of storytelling.

The pacing here is done phenomenally well and the introduction of the characters who actually matter in the movie is so natural and authentic. This 30-45 mark actually has a very different tone with the rest of the movie. I swear there is this one sequence of a crook running and a cop in van that had me laughing quite joyously, it was that fun. For a while I thought that the trailer was poorly edited and did a cloak and dagger on this comedy but once the ‘true’ arc starts, the trailer tells it true.  This movie is dark and dirty but at the same time there are comedy moments which really helps in terms of cutting tension.

This movie has what you expect from a Korean cop film.  The action is tense and brutal but it has a lighter comedy side which make it sometimes slightly awkward when transitioning between the two very different tones.  But I would much have it this way than have an overtly over the top super serious cop film about bringing a sociopath to justice though that largely depends on personal taste.

This film is solid and entertaining.  I would say the handling of side characters was quite a surprise as the secondary characters are on the sidelines when the investigation gets heated and things start getting serious but when they do come back it is a welcome relief and narratively contextualize so you would not be in disbelief when they do show up.

The pacing really help this film quite a bit.  Cop hunting crooks down in the name of justice but hampered by legalisms and dirty cops/politicians is a story we all have seen in some form or another.  Yet here, it doesn’t feel old but rather it feels fresh as it knows which side-story arcs are important and which ones are not.  This movie could have been bogged down by needless story arcs to reinforce the danger and intensity of the film but rather it gets straight to the point.

I really enjoyed the ensemble cast, the action, the storyline, the pacing, the action/brutality and all the laughs. So yes, I recommend this film.

Gravity 2 : Before In The Cellar

Video review:

Cantonese  English


I kid with that title. But in all honesty, people are going to compare this to those films anyway, so … why not have some fun with it.

Anyway, Ridley Scott finally returns to space after the visual landscape of Prometheus and thanks to the creative mind behind this film, it also is finally a good / decent Ridley Scott film since Black Hawk Down (in my childhood memory of that film).

Visually, again, Ridley has this locked down.  The stunning landscapes of Mars is believable and vast and magnificent. The space shuttle sequences are filmed to what you would expect and does give some spiffy ‘science-y’ zero-gravity scenes as well.  The scenes on earth though are, naturally, pretty dull and boring as they are full of offices and rooms full of people.

Speaking of ‘people’, Matt actually does a pretty good job in being a convincing astronaut who is stranded on Mars yet keeps his wit together and convincingly performs under high stress in keeping himself alive.

Actually, most of the ‘science’ feels about right and authentic which is always a plus when you have science everywhere and how much things relies on it(looking at you Interstellar/Gravity…you did not do ‘science’ right).  I mean seriously, there are a lot of jargon thrown around but in a sense that its actually understandable but narratively contextualize that they would dumb it down a bit for those in the room, as in the marketing team or whatever or even the audience.

I would say Jeff and Chiwetel played the most outstanding roles in terms of the ground team.  Both wanted the best for everybody but the way they did things were different. One could say Sean did more of the saving but he didn’t really have much to work with and was just angry most of the time. Kristin was replaceable and her humour antics was rather unwarranted and made things awkward rather than amusing.  Donald played up his Community antics and was a major nerd and had acceptable screen-time for someone of his calibre (beats out Danny in Cap2).

Now for the people in space. Rooney did well as the young techy eye-candy who could hold her own.  Michael Pena does it again with his comedy chops and his lines are spread out well enough to really have an impact when his stuff is actually funny as the tension does need some comedy to cut through it. Aksel is forgettable. Sebastian seems to have some hidden character motives that are never explored but are shot as if they are going to be.

And lastly, Jessica.  Again she is here to look nice.  She seems to try more this time around in terms of being someone you want to root for but she really falls in terms of being the commander of the mission.  It just doesn’t work as she doesn’t seem to have much presence when delivering her lines and gosh, she has the most awkward scene which involved ABBA.

So there you go for the cast and visuals.

Overall, this movie is fun and decent and will make a lot of money (for sure in terms of international markets).  The tension and suspense is there and it makes you care about Matt which is a crucial thing.

Now, people will ask how it compares to the book.  I have not read it but Tim has read it and he says the book was pretty much adapted straight through.  He finds the movie visuals a lending hand to what occurs in the book and the examples he’s given me really sells that.  As in, visually you can have things happen in the background yet have monologue happening but whereas for a book you either have a description of the scene or just have a monologue, the impact is not the same.

So end of the day, The Martian was a decent novel adaptation of a movie. Fun. Laughs here and there, tension here and there. What else do you want?

***sidenote:
I watched this in a full theatre and these dudes/girls beside us just straight up laugh at almost everything in the film and was a distraction and pulled from immersion. With that said, I can still call this movie decent, so when you watch it without people who are either high,drunk or just way-too positive, you’ll probably be more immersed than I was.

Who Are You?

Video review:
English Cantonese


This was just wow. What a concept. Doing a little bit of reading, I realized this was based off a social film done by Intel and Toshiba back in 2012.  Even though it is not entirely original, this movie was just really enjoyable. It amazes me further when I find out that this is the director’s debut. This is such an accomplishment.

Anyway, onward with the movie.

The plot is pretty straight-forward. Flashbacks are use to cement in the shock and surprise Woo-jin when  he first experiences his changes.  But beyond that the film doesn’t dwell too much in explaining the phenomenon which is a good thing. There are many inner monologues throughout the film as Woo-jin has to process what happened or what he is about to do.  I normally don’t like inner monologue but here it is justifiable through the story and character motivations.  I did appreciate when the film change this set-up near the latter half of the film and it really added to the experience altogether which was a great addition.  The plot does get into places where it seems like generic Korean storylines but it just sets up that way and delivers a much more meaningful message. Just so glad that it didn’t play out how Korean films stereotypically usually does so it somewhat had me on the edge of my seat cause I didn’t want this film to fall into that category of plotting.

Okay, enough about the plot.

The performance. Wow, just wow.  Having so many different actors/actresses yet to retain the established main character vibe and atmosphere is very impressive. I have not seen a film done this ever. Then again, I have yet to see a film have more than a couple of actors play one character. So props to everyone as Woo-jin. Another greatly impressive thing is their chemistry with Yi-soo. I mean, it is one thing to have everyone act a certain way but to have everyone really have that ‘same’ chemistry with the lead actress is just beyond words amazing. Everyone’s chemistry with Yi-soo felt right and never really out of place and even if it did, it was done so to reflect the emotions and troubles of Woo-jin.  And that is what makes this film so much more than just simply a love story. The layers of character development and struggles is very evident in each of the actors/actresses who plays Woo-jin. I am greatly impress by this cast and casting.

So now, with everything said, this movie is just such a great film is due to the fact that the director did very well in terms of establishing the characters and really letting audiences grow with the characters.  First off, the premise is already far-fetch but it is shown in a way that you just believe and you go with it. And go with it you must because if you can’t get over the fact that there is no real ‘science’ behind it all or some ‘magic’ entity or whatever, the rest of the film is going to fall flat for you.  But then again, the director sells it really well, no one knows what happened, so why should the audience? And plus, the change itself isn’t the real key here but rather the lifestyle and the relationship issues this change has made for Woo-jin. And all that is much more interesting than trying to explain how this thing works.

If I had one thing against this movie, it would be the character of Sang-baek, Woo-jin’s best friend. He shows up and has a really great scene in a flashback and its hilarious and pretty much every time he shows up, its comedy. However, as the relationship progresses, he shows up less and less and when he does show up nearer to the end, the impact is less as it feels like he was just written out of the story and then shoehorned in at the end. I feel like as Yi-soo gains more screentime, Sang-baek should have retain his comedy lines and appear more often than he did in the actual film. I believe this would have made the film feel a bit more ‘realistic’, though it is addressed that Woo-jin ends up spending a lot of time with Yi-soo and sort of ditches his friend. However, I feel like if you only had 3 people in the world who knew about your condition, you would see that person a little bit more despite the fact you feel like you just found your one true love. But that’s just me being me. #notcomplaining.

But despite that said, really this movie sells itself, from the plot to the acting to the directing, everything is done well and its easily digested and appreciated.  I am very glad that I can finally, after all these years, say a movie has gain the level of My Sassy Girl, personally anyway.  Then again, I wasn’t actively looking out for a movie to be placed in the greatness of My Sassy Girl and it is a totally different film but one I would recommend alongside My Sassy Girl. And another thing, since I’m not into the ‘know’ of Korean showbiz culture, a lot of the cameos went over my head. So if you are into the ‘know’, expect to have some nice surprises; well, surprises that made ladies in the theatre shriek with delight and the such.  Anyway, go watch it.

Extra tidbit: according to the wiki page for this movie, there was 31 actors/actresses who plays Woo-jin.

Multicultural Assassination

Here we go again, My Sassy Girl returns to the big screen. I guess after starring in a WWII era movie,  one gotta go back further, back to Japan’s colonial rule of Korea era. Also once again, the director returns in a film full of diverse ethnicities and languages.

Anyway with the movie.  So like I said, there are quite a few languages through around in this film which makes the narrative much more authentic as languages are spoken rather than dubbed or having foreigners speak in Korean.  Correct me if I’m wrong but in this film there is Korean, Chinese, Japanese and even French.  The director, Dong-hoon, previous film The Thieves also incorporated many languages but I would say I much appreciated it here more than the latter simply because it felt much more authentic rather than a “I can because I can” type of feeling.

Overall, I enjoyed this film but it mainly may be due to the fact that I’m extremely biased in the production of the film. For one, I enjoy listening to foreign languages as in I am totally fine with reading subtitles and it is a joy for me to hear actors speak in multiple languages successfully.  Second, I like time-period pieces as in I appreciated the sets/costumes so much more than contemporary setting films and another plus is that I have never seen a film set during the Japanese colonial ruled Korea. And lastly, I’ve seen the performances of the cast before and I enjoyed them and very lastly, I like My Sassy Girl.

The plot itself is rather simple and obvious, as in it’s about an assassination attempt. So the film builds up the plot in terms of how the attempt will go down and there’s recruitment for the team and such. It is throughout the film that it makes it interesting as there are many things going on at once and they are all leading up to the attempt and it is that which makes the movie an interesting watch despite its simple premise.  Character motivation and development keeps the narrative from going on stale. We have unclear character motivations and cloak and dagger stuff as well so it’s entertaining in that sense.

With this being an assassination attempt premise, the action isn’t your typical Korean film action.  There are set-pieces, there are brutal shots but overall it’s rather toned down. I’m not saying that’s anything bad as I feel its more about the characters here rather than the action which is a good thing as I find sometimes the action can be a distraction to what was actually done well in a film, especially for Korean films that have action.   With all that said, it goes back to me being bias, I really enjoyed everything visually in this film. I wasn’t expecting gritty intense and brutal hand-to-combat so I was totally fine with what I got.

So yeah, I recommend this solely for the time period that it takes place in but fortunately for all, there are other things that are entertaining and appreciated in this film.

Off the Record

First off, I have not read Infinite Jest so I can’t say if this movie would be better/worst if you knew/read about the book or actually know of Wallace. So there’s that.   But I will be reading it sooner than later.

Segel was great here, really great. I was hanging on every word and was really curious and actually interested to see/hear how he thinks. I would definitely say that he has vastly improved in his acting. Though I am comparing him to his previous work, so either he is a good actor and just didn’t get good gigs or he improved; I don’t have the right answer.  The cinematography really lend itself well here when facebook has constant chats with him back and forth. It never really feels boring as Wallace is such an interesting person and the lines are just done right. Segel never feels rigid or boring really; I don’t really know why. Maybe, it’s due to the fact that Segel to me is always Marshall from How I met Your Mother (tv show) so to see him do so well here, I am surprised and proud.

Jesse on the other hand is himself once again. Having watched 2 movies in a role where he’s just doing his typical Eisenberg mannerisms is actually boring.  American Ultra did it well cause it sorted him well as you got what you expected.  His performance here really makes you wish he would do something beyond his normal mannerisms /acting. So I do look forward to the day when he acts not like himself.

Like I said the cinematography lends itself well in setting up a chill and relaxed atmosphere during this interview session between the two leads.  There’s nothing that stands out too much beyond that it works well as in the shots were done to create the closeness/distance between the two writers.  I noticed that the movie ends with a similar sound as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which to me was a distraction as I was thinking about that movie rather than the narration done by Jesse.

So all in all, I would say this movie is definitely recommended solely on Jason Segel’s acting. To see how ‘far’ he has gone since his early days is rather rewarding. He proves that he can break through the typecast of a comedian and enter the world of ‘drama’.   I would hope that the movie would actually be better if you read and understood Infinite Jest as all I could do was really imagine how ‘good’ the book was whereas if you actually read it you would know how great it was.

Stay on the trail

First off, I feel all couples should watch this as it will help them with future couple problems. Second, all those who want to venture off the trail and go on a ‘real’ adventure should also watch this. And if somehow, a couple also has that knack for going off the rails, they should definitely watch this. You are welcome. And, oh yeah, hope you have a strong stomach.

Anyway, the movie.

Holy smokes!

Just wow. Everything here was done so well. Characters were well defined and fleshed out (for a 92 min movie with just 2 main characters).  I was actually surprised with how much characterization actually happened. I thought it could have easily been character troupes and leave it at that but there were a lot of conflict throughout the film and a lot of growth both personal and communal. With that said, it makes the film so much better when you can connect with them so well. Cinematography was done so well here to encompass the atmosphere of the woods. It changes as the characters’ situations turns for the worst. I really enjoyed this as you can clearly see the characters’ emotions displayed through how the woods are filmed. In the beginning there are a lot of nature documentary shots but when the leads find themselves in a rather unfortunate change of events, the woods themselves also change.  Sound is used well here as well and goes to add to the atmosphere and the characters’ feelings.

Overall, audiences can feel the characters really well due to everything being done well. Even the lame horror troupes of doing stupid things are justified through the story and characters.  This movie is really all about feeling what the characters feel. The tension and the helplessness really speak through the screens. The atmosphere building is just done really well that I can sum up pretty much why the movie was so good with so little words. One thing though would be the pacing, as it really isn’t your typical ‘paced’ movie as in you can’t really know what to expect. And that would stem from the fact that this is the director’s directorial debut ( as informed by my specialist of film) and you can tell short film influences are abound as scenes are built and there isn’t one true climatic climax in the film but rather a lot of things happen through.

One thing that would be a hard-sell would be people who haven’t gone camping or grown up with Be Safe in the Woods stories (play dead when you see a bear, or run faster than the other person to escape a bear) because the movie is a lot more intense because audiences can connect with the realism behind the premise. We (some of us) had times in the woods and have experience what they experience in the movie on a much smaller scale. The times when everywhere we look, it looks the same. Or, when we are trying to get our bearings so we can keep going the right direction.

At the end of the day, I feel this movie did what Gravity did to space and that is to make bears really freaking scary forces of nature. So all in all, I totally recommend this.  You can watch it for the thrills or simply watch how it was filmed so well. And oh yeah, this is Canadian and surprisingly enough this was the director’s directorial debut (wow), support it!

Old Man Holmes

This was amazing when you take all the cumulative Sherlock Holmes in movie/tv we have had in recent years. Ian Mc Kellan was great here playing the retired detective. I don’t normally praise a film outright but when you really think of the movie and the scope it entailed encompassing everything we know of Holmes, you can really appreciate how this movie is great.

Holmes goes off to his cabin in the woods and is taken care of by his housekeeper and her son but we have no idea why.  Then slowly, the narrative opens up why he is here but this is just the beginning as we explore the why of his coming but also his relationship between the housekeeper and her son.  It is this parallel narrative that makes the premise intriguing from the get-go. This is a movie that is much more about the how rather than the why. At the end of the day, the reason as to why he is here really doesn’t matter (sure its a nice reason but still.) as its the relationship and the self-realization Holmes goes through throughout the film that makes it such a watch.

Mc Kellan jumps back and forth between being age 93 and whatever age in his flashbacks really shows the range he displays throughout the film.  Holmes is the Holmes we all know but he’s old and he’s actually less intense but still condescending.  Milo Parker’s character Roger (housekeeper’s son) plays a role that we all know, the intense fascination of how Holmes does his detecting.  The relationship was great fun to watch as it started awkwardly but then became an actual friendship and the chemistry between the boy and old man is undeniable.  Laura Linney plays the housekeeper and she is the distant one as she doesn’t understand what kind of person Holmes is and what is he even about.  This foil of character makes an interesting atmosphere throughout the film when you have one character worshipping Holmes and the other being there strictly cause of circumstances.

The cinematography is what you would expect of British productions as in its pretty slow and there are  a lot of sitting around and talking and contemplating. The pacing has no issue here however as you are always curious as to how much more of the flashbacks will Holmes tell young Roger.

In terms of plot, it deals with what we know of Holmes from other stories and really addresses a problem that he has as in he is all about logic and less about being a human being. It’s addressing the core issue of the character that makes this an interesting watch.

All in all, Mr. Holmes is an enjoyable slow watch for fans of Sherlock Holmes, be it you are a fan of movie version of him or Sherlock or even Elementary.

American Spoon

I really think Kristin Stewart should be treated without the baggage of the trilogy that made her famous. To me, she definitely is someone to watch out for or at least check the trailer she is in.

Anyway, back to the movie.

American Ultra, a stoner-action-comedy flick. Directed by the dude that did Project X, we have a movie starring facebook guy and bella in a movie where they are stoned and there are action sequences at times. If you are curious about that and will be satisfied by that premise, I totally recommend you to check it out.

Facebook guy performs as he is known to perform but add a bit of smart/amusing action sequences. His role is fine and he did what one would expect to do with this role and his acting ability.  His stoner vibe is totally believable especially during the times where it seems like he just said something supremely profound. Bella on the other hand, playing the loving support character also did what she is known for and it works here. It  feels like Max Landis (the writer) just wrote characters just for these actors so it definitely doesn’t feel awkward at all throughout the film.  I think it largely depends on how you personally feel about facebook guy and bella, I’m fine with both of them so I actually could enjoyed the film.  If you didn’t, I don’t think you should watch this cause beside Topher Grace and Connie Britton, there’s no one else in this film. Topher Grace is somewhat an exaggerated character throughout the film but what do you expect when a film is about a stoner sleeper agent?

Now in terms of cinematography, it feels like an attempt at an indie film. The camera angles used aren’t all Hollywood conventionally ones and even dialogues scenes had some nice perspectives in them.  The action is pretty cool and brutal in the vein of John Wick as in quick and precise. So if you were expecting some crazy drawn out fight scene, there isn’t much of that here.  In terms of story and comedy, I felt like it did what it needed to do but it could have gone much further than it did here.  The stoner comedy comes and goes but it is enjoyable. The action is quick and swift (which is appreciated since the norm these days seems to be make everyone superman and just not die).

I feel like this movie won’t be received as well as it should be due to the audiences’ expectations of just being blown away by the R rating.  I think we are all now so ‘verse’ in terms of story plotlines we just cannot be satisfied. However, with that said, the premise itself and its execution is pretty good here with said plot.  So go in and don’t think too much and just enjoy some stoner sleeper agent action comedy.