Wednesday, January 04, 2006
movies movies

It's been awhile since I've taken note, but my constant movie watching continues. I still haven't caught Munich yet, but with my new (ghetto) set-up, it has been more comfortable.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shambala - Probably one of the best anime series I've watched inawhile, Fullmetal Alchemist's story did end with room for a sequel even after the 51st episode. The movie picks up right after the anime ends, with the main theme of the movie dealing with war, xenophobia, racial supremecy, and even Nazi occultism - with the main character Ed Elric being in Nazi-era Germany, these themes are all easily illustrated and accessible. A must-see for FMA fans.

Transporter 2 - The first Transporter movie had some pretty cool fighting / driving sequences (the oil slick fight was memorable), but the slapped-on romantic sub-plot really annoyed me and bogged down the pacing. This second movie does a better job setting up the action scenario, with "the Driver" (Jason Statham), fighting this time to save the life of a young boy. Cory Yuen handles the fighting choreography again, and there's an impressive fight sequence near the end involving a metal pipe and a firehose. Not high art, but everyone needs a popcorn action flick every once inawhile.

Sword in the Moon - A Korean-style wuxia / period drama set in 17th century Korea, the movie follows the stories of two friends, swordsmen who train under the same master. The title comes from the name of the organization they belong to, though a better translation of the Chinese characters for the organization's name would be "Clear Wind Shining Moon" (not "Sword in the Moon"). After graduating from the school, one friend, Choi, (Choi Min-su) is sent out into the country to join the army; the other friend, Yun, (Jae-hyeon Jo) is sent to Seoul to become a palace guard. Despite the friendship between the two characters, there's a coup and the two find themselves on opposite sides. The plot of the movie features a lot of flashbacks, and while the story gets interesting, it takes some focus to catch all the details. Unfortunately, the ending was a big letdown and failed to wrap up all the loose ends. Too bad... it started off good at least.

Die Bad - A Korean flick divided into four different chapters, each section features a different story told in a different style, but the characters are all related. The first chapter tells the story of a brawl between a bunch young Korean college students in a pool hall, ending in the accidental death of one the students. The second chapter tells the story of an ex-con just released from prison, who turns out to be the student from the first chapter who was convicted for the death of the student in the brawl. Unable to find any legitimate work, he joins the Korean mafia. The third chapter tells the story of ex-con's Korean mafia boss, and his arrest by a cop, who ironically was the friend of the ex-con back during college. The fourth chapter, and final chapter, wraps up all the stories, with the little brother of the cop wanting to join the ex-con's gang. It's not a high-budget flick with lots of fancy effects, but the character acting and pacing of the story were more than enough to engage me. I liked this movie a lot.

JSA (Joint Security Area) - Before director Park Chan-wook got famous for directing the controversial and brilliant Oldboy, this big budget movie made him famous. Released back in 2000, I think this was one of the first movies that really made me realize, "Whoa! South Korea is really making some good movies nowadays" (the other movies being Shiri, and of course, My Sassy Girl). I don't want to give away the plot of the movie except to say that it starts out as military suspense movie, where a half-Korean Swiss officer investigates the death of two North Korean soldiers by The Bridge of No Return in the DMZ, allegedly killed by a South Korean soldier. The story builds slowly, but once the movie begins to examine the soldiers' lives in the DMZ, larger themes emerge. Like many movies that focus on a "grunt's perspective", the message is one of humanity and brotherhood, the yearning of both South and North Koreans for peace, and the ridiculous insanity of war. The final scene is powerful and moving in its symbolism - a clever CGI photograph depicting each of the soldiers in Panmunjeom.

Tom Yum Goong - A Thai action flick starring human special effect Tony Jaa (of Ong Bak fame), Jaa plays Kham, a simple guy whose rural family lives in harmony with elephants. When the family elephant gets jacked by unscrupulous people, Kham follows them to Australia to - you guessed it - get his elephant back. While the plot itself might be something to laugh at, Jaa's martial art skills are nothing to be laughed at - the movie gives a virtual demonstration on Muay Thai kicking, punching, and the multiple ways in which the limbs of the human body can be broken. For me, the most bad ass fight scene occurs in a burning Buddhist temple, with Jaa taking on a skilled capoeira fighter and a Chinese swordsmen. A good watch for martial arts fiends.

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Comments:
you should definitely check out the Munich. its very sobering but interesting film.

if you like Jackie Chan, he made A New Police Story, you can probably rent it at Scarecrow and Jet Li has a new HK movie coming out soon.

Tony Jaa is the man. flying double knee through the platform from Ong-Bak was great.
 
yun- coo, thx man.
 
JSA is one of my favorite movies. I too got into Korean cinema through it and Shuri or whatever it's really called while I was in Japan (Shuri was the Japanese title).

So I got back to the states and tried to rent some "recommended Korean films" and they were all crackerified fetish stuff like "Lies" and "The Isle".

But anyway, I really loved how in both movies, the South Korean filmmakers showed a lot of empathy for the North Korean characters.

Isn't it crazy that America, which really has nothing in the same ballpark as South Korea to be bitter about towards North Korea often insists on demonizing not just the leader, but North Koreans in general. These filmmakers who have lived through the eras of war and terrorist attacks, are able to empathize. What does that say about us?
 
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5. Jeremiah 31:33

the facts.
name. Gar AKA "that Chinese guy" "Sleepy.McSleeping"
ethnicity/nationality. Chinese/American, 4th gen.
location. Sea-Town, WA, USA Kawanishi, JAPAN
occupation. less-cynical poor grad student
age. younger than you think, older than you know

 



 

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