Archive for category Favorite Movies

(Ahjussi) The Man From Nowhere

I watched this movie with my Korean class and was totally floored~

Plot: 4/5
An ex-special agent Cha Tae-Shik’s (Won Bin) only connection to the world is a little girl, So-Mi (Kim Sae-Ron), who lives next door. Her mother, Hyo-jeong, smuggles drugs from a drug trafficking organization and entrusts Tae-shik with the product, without letting him know. The traffickers eventually find out about her smuggling and kidnap both Hyo-jeong and So-mi. Tae-shik is now drawn back into the world in a frantic search for So-Mi’s whereabouts. In order to save So-mi, he makes an arrangement with the crime mob. While So-mi is still nowhere to be found, the police begin to chase after Tae-shik. With the police and the underground mob on his trail, Tae-shik continues his frantic search for So-mi while his hidden past becomes revealed…”

That’s direct from the back of the DVD box, and it does a pretty good job of explaining the plot. The story is about him searching for the little girl. There is a plot bit they should have included: the girl’s mom turns up pretty quickly- dead in the back of a car the drug guys made Tae-shik drive. She had her organs and eyes cut out, all while she was alive (sedated). So he’s trying to get to So-mi before she’s harvested by the mafia as well. Another way to describe the plot of this movie is “Taken” (the Liam Neeson movie) except the girl isn’t his kid, is only like 12, and it’s drug rings, not sex slavery. Since it’s the same plot, more or less, I took off a point. Overall it has a different feel, you don’t sit there going “Oh god, I”m watching “Taken” by a different name” (not that “Taken” is a bad movie!).

Acting: 10/5

The little girl is an INCREDIBLE actress! She really does a brilliant job. And Won Bin (the lead actor)… Well… The eye candy is enough of a reason to watch this! I think he’s the hottest actor Korea has to offer! Both he and the little girl do amazing jobs, and really everyone involved delivers a high quality performance.

Directing: 5/5
This is an action movie, but the director seemed to stress a lot of the story scenes. The action shots are very high quality, but the story is extremely well developed. These days when you hear a movie title you remember the action shots, but with this one you get a balance between action and story. I really like this style! The director doesn’t go for a flashy shooting format. He seems to be of the “Invisible Directing” mentality, which in action movies isn’t easy to pull off. There are a few nifty tricks, but for the most part he lets the actors tell the story, not a lot of metaphorical shots.

Other Things

I really appreciate that there is minimal handcam BS. During the action scenes and some chases it comes out, but never for very long.

Don’t worry about being able to find this movie in the States. I just came across it today in a movie store. In the US it is under the name “The Man From Nowhere”. I found it in the “Action” section, but it could fit into an “International” movie section too. It is very new, just released in 2010 and in the States I think the release was earlier this year. It has english subtitles, or you can watch it dubbed.

Won Bin in sexy. In case I haven’t said that enough.

The movie is a bit on the violent side, a  lot of cutting and shooting, but nothing too graphic I’d say. There are a few scenes that are a bit hard to watch (the mom being tortured with a hair dryer), but… I think it’s not too bad. I can’t watch “Saw” (any of the “Saw” movies really) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” makes me squirm, but this movie was OK to see. I’d say 14 or 15+ should be alright, even though the official US rating is “R”. Oh, and there is a bit of nudity with the mom’s corpse, if I remember correctly, a chest shot. No other naked bodies, and no sex scenes though, so you just have to worry about language and violence.

I just watched this movie again with my mom, and she said: Won Bin is indeed sexy, and she cried at the end.

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2012

I was surprised by this movie. I didn’t think it would do very well, but then I went to see it 3 times.

Plot: 6/5
When typhoons, earthquakes and other disasters suddenly threaten to destroy the World, Jackson, his estranged wife Kate, and others surmise that the secret may lie in ancient Mayan prophecies that describe the global calamity in the year 2012.

OK, this textbook description of the movie isn’t very good (thanks a lot, Netflix). The way I would describe the movie is thus: After a series of strange global phenomenon (tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic activity) a young scientist figures out that the sun is sending out massive amounts of radiation which may very well bring about the melting of the ice caps and an increase in overall global temperature, which would cause all kinds of hell. The scientist brings his data directly to the top of the government: the President.

With other country heads a project is begun to prepare for this end of the world scenario.

Some years later strange things begin to occur. Natural disasters are on the rise and the government has taken residence in Yellowstone National Park (for those of you who don’t know, this park is home to a massive volcano). Jackson, a limo driver, is supposed to take his children for the weekend on a trip there to give his ex some alone time with her plastic-surgeon husband. At the park he breaks in to a fenced area to see a lake he and his family used to camp at. The lake is completely gone. He is taken by the feds and eventually told to just stay away. Dr. Helmsley, the young scientist from the beginning, admits to being a fan of Jackson (a highly unsuccessful writer).

Later that night Jackson hears the rantings of Charlie Frost, who is yelling about the end of the world and how Yellowstone Volcano is about to explode. Jackson and Charlie talk for a short while. In LA (where Kate, his ex, lives) a sudden fissure opens through part of the city, nearly killing his ex and her husband while shopping at the supermarket. Jackson comes home with the kids and is just getting kicked out of the house when a huge earthquake strikes. He gets in his car with Kate, her husband and the kids and high-tails it out of the city.

The movie follows mostly Jackson as he tries to stay one step ahead of the natural disasters and make his way to China, where Charlie had predicted the Chinese government (in tandem with tons of others) had built some kind of Arc to preserve humanity when the world was ending. The Arc is a series of huge ships, a ticket on which cost 1,ooo,ooo,ooo Euro (about $2,000,000,000) and was meant to fund the project. He meets up with other friends on the way and their group increases in size. Meanwhile Dr. Helmsley tries to advise the President and scrambles to save those he can, including the Presidents beautiful daughter Dr. Wilson, who was only told last minute that her art-preservation project was really a front to move priceless works (such as the Mona Lisa and David) onto these Arcs.

 

Newton and Ejiofor

Acting: 5/5
John Cusack (Jackson) and Amanda Peet (Katie) are kind of rough. Peet’s character really does most of the screaming and whining, without actually contributing a lot to the story. Her character seems more designed to give Jackson depth and drive him forward, but they could probably have just had her character dead before the movie started and with a little re-writing it all would have been fine.

 

Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dr. Helmsley) has to be one of the most underrated actors out there. I’ve seen him in just a few movies so far, but each time he plays secondary lead roles and really does a brilliant job. I had more fun watching his storyline with Thandie Newton (Dr. Wilson) than Cusack and Peet’s duet story. And Newton, who also starred as one of the lead girls in “Crash” can’t seem to do a bad job at anything, which is why I think her career has really taken off.

There are a lot of older big names in this movie. Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson for example. Oliver Platt too, but he was never as popular as those two. There are little to no current big names, all actors who were huge about 10+ years ago and have kind of vanished. The cast is, for the most part, seems to be mid-30s (in the scope of the movie I mean, I don’t know their actual ages).

Directing: 4/5
It was alright. There were some amazing shots, but a lot of them were CGI, so I feel like I should attribute most of the score from that to the special effects department. There were also some instances, for example the scenes running through various big cities, that were kind of sloppily done. A lot seemed to be meant to show off the CGI, and you lost sight of the actors (or their car). That’s fine, but wide city shots dominated any scene that was not in a confined space. All of this was designed to show off the scope of the devastation, but too often you were snapped in and out of the action, which is a little too disorienting.

Other Things
I liked this movie a lot. I’d recommend it along with such movies as “The Day After Tomorrow” and the Korean film “Haeundae”. All 3 share a similar enough theme. Though this movie and “The Day After Tomorrow” could be twins.

As much as I picked on them I did enjoy the wider city shots. I’ve been to LA and Vegas numerous times and (at least with Vegas) I know a bit of the layout. I liked seeing the destruction scenes for the movie because there was a lot of familiarity. I think people who have been to both places numerous times can relate to that. It’s nice seeing a city you know destroyed in a movie more than a city you don’t know, it’s more fun.

In my opinion “The Day After Tomorrow” is a little better. Between the rapid camera shots and loud explosions and rumblings I kind of felt rushed in this movie. It covers a TON in the running time, and so your brain will be tired once it’s over. I would say they were a little ambitious with the plot (things go by very quickly to accommodate a long storyline), but in this case I think less would have hurt it more than having too much. You get a very even treatment of the story and nothing is sloppy.

According to both “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow” the only place in the world largely untouched by terrifying climate and landmass changes is the middle of Africa, so I think we should all move there. Oh, and both movies teach us that our governments will hang us out to dry because all advisers to the President are total jack-asses. And the guys we should be listening to are misunderstood but too nice to say anything about it.

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Death Note: The Last Name (Japanese)

I didn’t want to watch this today… I love the “Death Note” series, and I didn’t want to finish watching the movies so soon~~~ I really love the mind games between the characters… But this is my favorite in the series, so I couldn’t resist…

Plot: 9/5

Light Yagami has joined the investigation team in pursuit of the serial killer known as “Kira”. While L strongly suspects Light is “Kira” Light continues to seek out L’s real name so he can kill him using the Death Note. Things get more unpredictable with the appearance of a second “Kira” who possesses the “Eyes of Death God”, enabling the owner to see the true identity and lifespan of any person.

Light soon learns the identity of the second “Kira” and wants to join forces to get rid of L. Will L be able to unmask “Kira” before he gets killed? Which name will be the last written in the Death Note?

Yep, that pretty much sums it up. This is a pure sequel to “Death Note”. That means there is no sudden change to the storyline or totally different direction to the piece. It picks up exactly where the last left off and keeps going without breaking stride. The two could be patched together into one movie perfectly, but it’d be really long (not that I would mind!).

Acting: 4/5

This really hasn’t changed too much. The supporting cast have gotten better, that’s for sure, but there are still the same problems from Tatsuya Fujiwara, the actor playing Light. He’s still awkward to watch whenever he has to show strong emotion.

This movie reinforced my belief that there should have been a day or two long “Dying” workshop mandatory to all actors who die in the movie. The “heart attacks” were way overdone, and some died instantly while others stayed alive for long periods of time (I won’t give anything away but his name starts with an “L”) *grin* see what I did there? you already know one of the dead starts with an “L”, but you don’t know if it’s “Light” or “L”!!!*grin*. So yeah, mandatory classes on how to die. Nothing wrecks a movie faster than an obnoxiously long death.

Kenichi Matsuyama ~(^_^)~ that’s all I’ll say about that.

Directing: 5/5

Nothing wrong here this time around. I loved the directing and there were none of those painful and corny shots that were found in the first movie. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is my favorite of the three Death Note movies. It really is quite brilliant and the directing definitely picked up.

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Death Note (1)- Japanese

Plot: 9/5

Ace student Light Yagami finds the Death Note, a notebook intentionally dropped by a rogue “Shinigami” Death God named Ryuk. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies. Upset with the current justice system, Light takes matters into his own hands and vows to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of all evil, and become “the God of the new world.”

A mysterious detective known only as “L” quickly learns that the serial killer, nicknamed “Kira” by the public, is located in Japan. Light realizes that L will be his greatest enemy, and a game of psychological cat and mouse between the two begins.

I think that’s actually a pretty good description, though realistically it could cover both movies. The first movie sets up the Death Note idea, the relationships between characters, and gives you a taste of what is to come as far as the mental battle between the two super-geniuses goes.

One complaint I have with the series is with the character names. When you’re fan-girling over the movie with friends it’s sometimes hard to keep “L” and “Light” straight… But oh well. There is nothing wrong with the names, I just get tongue-tied over them.

Acting: 4/5
The actor playing “Light”, Tatsuya Fujiwara, is just OK in my book. He’s great with the more serious and diabolical expressions, but any scene requiring strong emotion is patchy to say the least. He can look miserable or happy, but he can’t do the shout-in-agony or shout-in-rage thing. He needs to practice that one a bit. Particularly in the death scene at the end (not his, duh) he’s a bit too… IDK, but it’s hard to watch.

I’m giving him his own paragraph! Kenichi Matsuyama plays “L”, and he gets ∞/5 points for that one. He’s absolutely brilliant. In this first movie “L” doesn’t really show any great emotion, it’s just his type, but Kenichi Matsuyama does the small expression changes perfectly, that kind of acting is hard. You see his emotions more in Death Note 2 and 3, so don’t judge the character totally by the first movie. He is also why I say I’ll probably review more Japanese shows, he’s totally my favorite actor ^^

The rest of the cast is pretty good. A few actors stand out, and sometimes not in a good way. I’ve seen all 3 movies already (I don’t know why it took me this long to review them… I love them…), and so I know they get more settled in their characters as time goes on, but a lot of the expressions in this movie are too sudden and they tend to shout what they need to with the proper expression then go straight back to blank-face.

Directing: 4/5

The directing for the most part is smooth and pretty unnoticeable, but there are a couple of really corny areas where I don’t think the effect worked at all. For example, when Light is talking about how he will rid the world of evil and destroy L and blah blah blah diabolical-ness. You get this cool shot of L in slight shadow in his room. Then a shadow of Ryuk slides (literally) over from the side, holding perfectly still so that in the end when the shot is done it looks like Ryuk is whispering in his ear. I get that it’s a metaphor for the God of Death controlling him, but it’s kind of cheesy and dumb looking. Definitely a rough shot. I’m all for creating a metaphor, and the shot could have been cool anywhere else in the movie, but as blatant as it was in that exact spot it was just too obvious of a metaphor.

Other Things

The writing is superb. There are a lot of things in Death Note that are difficult to follow, the “how-did-they-do-that” factor is strong in this movie. In the manga as well as the film (yes, I actually read it, that tells you how much I love this movie!) they do a brilliant job of explaining everything. While they obviously can’t follow the manga page-for-page, they do probably the closest job of it I’ve ever seen in this movie. Fans of the books will like the film, and fans of the anime (cartoon) won’t be lost.

I don’t really have anything to say on this movie. I highly recommend it to any teen or up. I have a warning though: I personally love the mind games the two play, that’s the main draw to this movie for me. I see absolutely nothing wrong with it (beyond what I pointed out), and I don’t think it’s frightening in the least. That being said whenever I talk to my friends who have also seen this I tend to hear “Oh, it was WAY too scary, I had nightmares”. See, personally I don’t get that. It’s not scary. It’s like “Oceans 11” for serial killers. Nothing really jumps out and says “boo”, there is no sudden action, but for some reason it freaks out small kids and certain teens, so keep an eye out for it. But seriously, I don’t get how that happens, so don’t worry too much about it. Just preview it and based on your youngsters personality decide if it would scare them. Really though, can someone explain to me how this is a scary movie???????????????? Whenever I ask I always get back “It just is”.

Oh yeah, since it’s an option on the DVD I’ll speak for a moment about the English dubbed version. While it’s rocky at first, it isn’t horrendous. I’ve seen worse *cough*CrouchingTigerHiddenDragon*cough*. In some cases, honestly, the acting from the Japanese actors is so over the top that the dubbed version is actually an improvement. But watch the Japanese version first, I personally like hearing their normal voices.

One cool thing they did with the dub that I should mention is the voice actors themselves. The voice actors in the dubbed version are the SAME as the ones who did the original English dub for the anime (cartoon) series. I think it’s cool that they got away with using the same actors, it shows how close to the characters themselves Kenichi Matsuyama and Tatsuya Fujiwara are.

GO WATCH THIS MOVIE

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Waking Ned Divine

This is a little Irish flick, so I don’t know if you have heard of it, let alone seen it. I personally love English European cinema, but it was still coincidence that I came across this one.

Plot: 4/5
When Ned Divine dies from shock after winning the lottery, two longtime friends, Michael and Jackie, discover the body and agree Ned would want them to benefit from his good luck. They embark upon an outrageous scheme to claim the ticket- but first they have to get all the townsfolk to go along with their plan!

It is a simple plot, that is why I took a point off, but the execution was great. The story is slow enough paced that it carries that “sleepy old town” feel and yet not so slow that you are bored. There are quiet plot lines running in the background, a love story between two people in the village, the routine investigation from the Lottery commission which puts everyone at risk, and an angry old woman who threatens everything. These plot lines don’t ever grow to a very severe level.

I think kids wouldn’t like this movie much, but it’s great if you have a calmer personality or are tired. It is a softer kind of film, a lot like “The Secret of Roan Inish” ( ❤ ❤ ❤ ). Actually I know mostly older people, such as parents or grand parents, who enjoyed this, but saying it’s an “Old Peoples” movie would make it sound like a teen can’t enjoy it either (I’m 19 and I love it).

Acting: 5/5
Kekeke, I have a secret for loving this movie so much ^^. It isn’t the two HILARIOUS old men (You’ll recognize Jackie as the guardian of the wall in Stardust), but it is a relatively minor character. The girl in that quiet love story I told you about played the Sylkie in “The Secret of Roan Inish”. Lol, I REALLY love that movie ^^

Yes, it is a naked octogenarian on a motorbike, just laugh and go with it

Directing: 5/5
This is the quiet and unnoticed sort of directing, which is fine by me. It is an unbelievable kind of comedy, but the camera angles and cuts seem to acknowledge this and the film almost has a just-laugh-and-go-with-it feel, which is the overall attitude as well. I respect the director greatly for this!

Other Things
I don’t have much to say on this. The film is British humor at it’s peak, with a dash of slapstick at the very end (So an Eastern Canadian humor???). It will make you laugh, and it is a cute movie that you won’t regret seeing. I would promise you, but I don’t know your personality, and your reaction to the film kind of depends on that.

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August Rush

Any music fan, classical music fan, contemporary music fan, or really anything with a beat will love this movie.

Plot: 6/5
There’s music in the wind and sky. Can you hear it? And there’s hope. Can you feel it? The boy called AUGUST RUSH can. The music mysteriously draws him, penniless and alone, to New York City in a quest to find- somehow, someway- the parents separated from him years earlier. And along the way he may also find the musical genius hidden within him.

Ok, I’m going to elaborate on this a little. August’s parents were both exceptional musicians. His mother was a renowned cello player, and his father was a guitarist for an Irish rock group. They met spontaneously at a party and spent the night together (in the English sense of the word. AKA: sex). She was to meet him in the park, but they kept just missing one another. She told her father she did not want to perform anymore and ran to meet him, but was hit by a car on the way. She was very pregnant at this point. Her father forged her signatures on adoption papers and told her the baby had died.

Years pass and the father grew old and ill. On his deathbed he told his daughter the truth, prompting her to go on a quest to find her missing son. Meanwhile August, the child, has gone from the orphanage and fled to New York, where he sought to follow and find the music he has always heard. A chance encounter with his real father begins a series of events that will reunite the family.

I like this movie. You don’t usually see a storyline that revolves around music, and I’ve certainly not seen one with this approach. I really can’t give this high enough credit. I think it is a prime example of brilliant scriptwriting and the production crew did a great job!

Acting: 8/5
I’ve never seen the cast of this movie act quite as well as they did here. Freddie Highmore is the lead, August. He became my favorite child actor for his work here (you might remember him from “Willy Wonka” with Johnny Depp, where he had the lead as well). He plays the character smoothly and without extra fluff. Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers have lesser roles as August’s mother and father. They both fit the role well. I think this is the first non-chick-flick I’ve seen Keri Russell in. Terrence Howard plays the Social Worker who seeks to help find the missing August and reunite him and his mother. Finally, and perhaps most impressively, is Robin Williams. He has absolutely no humor or even kindness about him. His character is an evil anti-establishment musician who lives on the streets, forcing homeless kids to perform and give him the money.

Directing: 6/5
You definitely notice the directing here, but not in a bad way. The camera angles are exquisite to say the least. While watching you are aware it is a movie, but it feels almost like watching a fairy tale. It has a timeless and almost magical quality. Production Director Michael Shaw and Director Kirsten Sheridan (I know, I actually looked up the two instead of saying “these people”!!!!) really deserve an award for the work. It is seamless.

Other Things
I really hope you all have seen this film. If you haven’t, then I hope you are getting your car keys and getting ready to go out and buy it. It is perfect for all ages. Even though there is a “PG” rating I think adults and teens will all love it.

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The Holiday

This is a romantic comedy, but not the brain dead one you typically see. There is actual substance here, and the acting is very surprising for the cast they chose. Nothing against the actors, they just don’t typically do this kind of movie with this kind of performance.

Plot: 6/5
Iris is in love with a man who is about to marry another woman. Across the globe, Amanda, realizes the man she lives with has been unfaithful. Two women who have never met and live 6,000 miles apart, find themselves in the exact same place. They meet online at a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the holiday. Iris moves into Amanda’s L.A. house in sunny California as Amanda arrives in the snow covered English countryside. Shortly after arriving at their destinations, both woman finds the last thing either wants or expects: a new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris’ handsome brother Graham and Iris, with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur, mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles.

I think in this case the DVD description is pretty dead on. The plot might not sound like much, but the execution is where the story gets points.

Acting: 5/5
This really surprised me. Amanda and Iris are played by Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet respectively. While this pairing might not seem like much, even considering Graham is Jude Law, what really got me was Iris’ Miles, played by Jack Black. He has his goofy moments, but it is a more focused and refined funny side than he usually shows. His character can almost be pegged as serious. I don’t know if Black chose this role as a way to put feelers into a new genre, as a way of testing his acting, or as a one time fling, but he did amazingly. I think if Black took on more roles like this one his career would become legendary, instead of the joke most of what he does is now. He would be taken seriously with more of what you see in this film under his belt.

Directing: 5/5
What I look for in directing is if you ever notice it or not. Not noticing is typically better than the alternative, though sometimes there are cool shots where you have to step back and say “woah”. In this case you notice nothing. The story goes smoothly and naturally, with great grace and easy transitions.

Other Things
This movie is not particularly fancy. It has no outstanding directing or fast plot, but watching it you don’t really notice. It is a movie I would describe in a word as “comfortable”. You can relax and watch this movie without going brain dead. It holds your attention, but doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen. It is just a story about people living their lives. Describing it I know it sounds like a pretty dull film, but I don’t know how to do it justice. I would recommend this as a nice comedy to watch on a rainy or cold night by yourself or with friends or lovers. It is that kind of movie.

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