Reviewing “The Interview”

interview4

I’ve only seen “The Interview” once and I have no immediate plans to see it again, so I’m not technically reviewing the film. *ahem*

However, lots of other folks have put forth the time and effort to do a proper review of the movie.  I’ll share the best of those and add a few thoughts of my own along the way.

As I made my morning rounds of the internets I found this gem of a review from James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal entitled “Escape from You Nork” (if the link doesn’t get you past the WSJ paywall, just do a Google search of the title).  It starts with one of those “Un” puns that may make Kevin Kim’s head explode.   Regardless, it’s a worthwhile read, not so much as a review of the film but as a review of some reviews of the film.  Plus, a little inside baseball on the controversies surrounding its release.

Speaking of Kevin Kim, almost immediately after reading Taranto’s piece, I came upon his excellent review on his Hairy Chasms blog.  I pretty much share his overall impressions and conclusion, upon which I will elaborate later in this post.  Definitely go give it a read.

Kevin helpfully shared the third review I read this morning, from Barbara Demick in The New Yorker.  Ms. Demick is a noted authority on the madness that is the DPRK and I found myself nodding in agreement with her points throughout the review.  I think you’ll enjoy it too.

Now, the circumstances of my seeing “The Interview” may be of some interest.  I happened to show up at Bull and Barrel for an impromptu game of darts.

interview5

Whilst there I made the acquaintance of a guy named Philip Iglauer who I later learned is a journalist who writes for The Diplomat.  He wasn’t there for the darts however, instead he was making final arrangements for a New Year’s Day showing of “The Interview” to be followed by a panel discussion.  I scored an invite and showed up at the appointed time.

BnB was packed with around 100 moviegoers.

BnB was packed with around 100 moviegoers.

The screen was bigger than most I suppose.  You can even see the back of the ol' Walrus' head in the right rear corner of this photo...

The screen was bigger than most I suppose. You can even see the back of the ol’ Walrus’ head in the right rear corner of this photo…

I enjoyed the movie for what it was and was not put off by what it wasn’t (and frankly, what it wasn’t was not what it intended to be).  It was a Seth Rogen lightweight/low brow comedy farce for crissakes. I really grow weary of the overly-sensitive types who take offense at every perceived slight or unflattering stereotype.  When did we lose the ability to laugh at ourselves?  Anyway, I found the film moderately funny, but not as funny or scathing as Team America: World Police (one of my all-time favorites).

My political philosophy summed up in two minutes.  Does that make me a dick, pussy, or asshole?  You decide.

But back to the movie at hand.  After our viewing at BnB (I estimate the audience was maybe 20% Korean), the panel discussion ensued.

The panel: (Left to Right): Lee Han-byeol is North Korean defector. She is also a Korean Unification master's student at Yonsei University and Chief of Administration at "Justice For North Korea." Park Sokeel is Director of Research & Strategy for Liberty in North Korea, an international NGO that works with North Korean refugees. Nemo Kim is a film critic & journalist specializing in Asian cinema. Currently the Korea correspondent for Variety, she writes for Sight & Sound and teaches Korean cinema and Korean Wave classes at the Hanguk University of Foreign Studies. Peter Jung is Director & Founder of "Justice For North Korea," a North Korean Human Rights NGO. Kurt Achin is a Seoul-based freelance journalist with years of experience working in media.

The panel: (Left to Right):
Lee Han-byeol is North Korean defector. She is also a Korean Unification master’s student at Yonsei University and Chief of Administration at “Justice For North Korea.”
Park Sokeel is Director of Research & Strategy for Liberty in North Korea, an international NGO that works with North Korean refugees.
Nemo Kim is a film critic & journalist specializing in Asian cinema. Currently the Korea correspondent for Variety, she writes for Sight & Sound and teaches Korean cinema and Korean Wave classes at the Hanguk University of Foreign Studies.
Peter Jung is Director & Founder of “Justice For North Korea,” a North Korean Human Rights NGO.
Kurt Achin is a Seoul-based freelance journalist with years of experience working in media.

To be honest, I was moderately disappointed with the panel, and with just a couple of exceptions I didn’t agree with much of what they had to say.  Of course, Ms. Lee (the NK refugee) was so damn pretty I didn’t care what she said.  What she said was in Korean anyway.  The poor interpreter did her best, but Ms. Lee talked fast and at length.  The gist of her comments seemed to be that she liked the film and thought people viewing it in the north would perhaps benefit from seeing the regime portrayed in a negative light.

Mr. Park saw it differently.  He thought the film didn’t go far enough in showing the abuses taking place and indicated the comedic approach was somehow counterproductive.  He also said that he thought balooning the film into the North was a mistake as it would damage the possibility of improved relations between the countries.

Ms. Kim came off as the snooty Brit she was raised to be.  She made note of the fact that she was an actual movie reviewer for Variety (as if that made her opinions more valuable). She was the one who took the most offense at the “stereotypical” depictions of Asians. She also faulted the film for being “unrealistic”, noting that the real Kim Jong-Un spoke near perfect English.  She also didn’t like the fake grocery store, saying that such stores do not in fact exist in Pyongyang.  Whatever was my response.

Mr. Jung did not like the movie much either.  He thought it fed into the ugly American stereotype that is ingrained into the North Korean citizenry.  He didn’t think the criticisms of the regime would set well with the general populace up north.  That might be a valid point, considering how the average American reacts to criticisms coming from foreigners.

Mr. Achin was the only American on the panel and he’s the one who seemed to make the most sense.  He dismissed the minor discrepancies as a natural “comedic license” and noted that the film did not shy away from pointing out the most egregious human rights violations perpetuated by the past and present Kim regimes. He also mentioned that the stereotypes cut both ways, with the “dumb American” mindset on prominent display throughout the movie.

The microphone never got around to me before I lost patience with the whole endeavor. Had it reached me, this is what I would have tried to say:

It’s only a movie, a non-serious one at that.  It was never intended to be used as a propaganda piece to win the hearts and minds of the North Korean populace.  What it does accomplish though is to get people thinking and talking about what is happening in a country that most Americans never seriously consider.  That’s a good thing.  And the fact that the Kim regime went to extraordinary lengths to try and keep this film from being viewed says a lot.  If nothing else, it provided us all an excellent opportunity to offer Mr. Kim Jong-un a heartfelt “fuck you very much” just by watching.

Isn’t that enough?

Dexter

dexter_tv_series_title_card.jpg

So, last night I watched the final episode of season 4 from the Showtime series Dexter.

Wow.  Now to be honest, Dexter’s wife was getting on my nerves all season long.  Always whining about something and threatening to leave Dexter over any minor disappointment.  I mean, sure Dexter has his issues, but c’mon, her ex was a drug addict and he routinely beat and raped her.  So maybe Dex doesn’t always express his feelings (’cause he’s a sociopath) but he’s good to the wife and the kids, and provides a nice home and security for the family.

Er, well, scratch that security part.  I didn’t really like the bitch, but still…

I don’t want to go any further and spoil if for anyone who hasn’t seen this episode yet, but what a great show.  John Lithgow gave a career performance in my view.

Now, like everyone else, I am anxiously awaiting the debut of season 5.  I gotta tell you though, I’m not sure what the writers are going to do to tie up the loose ends from season 4.  Dex’s sister has got to be on to him now, especially after learning about the family heritage.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

The Blind Locker

Or maybe the Hurt Side. 

Gawd, I’m a laugh riot, ain’t I?

Yeah, via the wonders of the Internets I have enjoyed two Oscar winners in the comfort of my home.

The Blind Side starring Best Actress Sandra Bullock was an entertaining film.  Which I guess is why most of us invest the time to watch, right?  I think if not for the fact that it was based on real events it might have been a little too sweet, but sometimes reality has a Hollywood ending I suppose.  I’ve always enjoyed looking at watching Sandra Bullock.  Even as a blonde with a Southern accent.  I give this movie a 4 (out of 5) rating.

The Hurt Locker won this year’s Best Picture in an upset of James Cameron’s Avatar.  That alone made me want to watch this film.  See, I kinda dig our military (big surprise, huh?).  And whatever your politics, you ought to be able appreciate the sacrafice, dedication, and skill of our warfighters.  You know, these young men and women are the best America has to offer.  And if you don’t respect them, I just ain’t got no use for you.  Hate the mission, love the Soldier/Airman/Sailor/Marine.  Get it?  Got it? Good.

Anyway, The Hurt Locker told the tale of a IED disposal team in Iraq.  And while the movie didn’t blow me away, it wasn’t a bomb either.  (Yeah, I know.  I just can’t help myself).  You know, it was a well made picture and I think a fair portrayal of just how f’d up asymetrical warfare really is.  I enjoyed the story and I’m glad it got some recognition from the Academy.  I’ve seen more moving, um, motion pictures, but this one was fine and dandy.  I’ll rate it a solid 4. 

Same Time, Next Year

So, I happened upon a movie I quite fancy on YouTube.  Yeah, it’s a just silly romantic comedy starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, but I’m a sap for romance.  Plus, the theme song by Johnny Mathis and Jane Oliver is worth the price of admission.

Actually, the price of admission is free here at LTG.  ‘Cause I am posting the links to each 10 minute chunk right here.  Enjoy!

part 1

part 2

part 3

part 4

part 5

part 6

part 7

part 8
part 9

part 10

part 11

part 12

part 13

Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

Broken Flowers

200px-broken_flowers_poster.jpg

Got back in the Netflix groove last night with the 2005 Bill Murray “comedy-drama” Broken Flowers.

The film tells the story of an aging Don Juan type who has just experienced a break up with his current squeeze.  A pink enveloped letter arrives sans postmark, return address, and signature; informing Murray’s character that he is the father of a 19 year old son.  Murray narrows it down to 5 potential ex’s and at his neighbors insistence he proceeds to pay each a visit in the hope of ascertaining which is the mother of his child.

The movie is basically the story of the encounters with 4 or the women (the fifth had died in an accident several years prior, but he does visit her grave). 

I thought there was a lot more melancholy than comedy in this movie, but maybe that’s just me. I found the film entertaining but I kept waiting for some meat on the bones of the story.  Each of the encounters was interesting, but lacked any real substance.  There was really nothing said about the circumstances of the prior relationships or why they ended.  Although Murray looked for clues as to their potential as the mother of his child, everything was ambiguous and at the end of his journey he still basically had no clue with whom (or even if) he had actually fathered a child.

Not hard to avoid spoilers because nothing was ever resolved (hmmm, I guess that is kinda of spoiler.  sorry).  I found the ending rather abrupt and unsatisfying.  Yeah, this I guess is one of those movies intended to make the viewer “think”.  That’s ok with me.  Hell, I had to think about (and rewatch several times)  Mulholland Drive for months and I still don’t think I entirely get it. 

The problem with Broken Flowers is that there was just not that much there to get.  Watchable movie for sure with a nice performance by Murray.  Also good to see the ex’s, including Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange.  I’ll give it 3 1/2 stars.

Oldboy

 200px-oldboykoreanposter.jpg

Well, I finally had Oldboy come up in my Netflix queue.  This is one of those Korean classics that comes with a can’t be missed reputation.  And I have now completed all segments of the “vengeance trilogy”.  If pushed, I guess you could say these are in the “Kill Bill” genre, although there is bit more meat here than in Tarentinos effort (violence being the potatos).  Although you will definitely get a good deal of starch in this as well. (ok, I’ve worked that analogy about as far as it will go, don’t ya think?)

Oldboy was was by far the most disturbing of the three.  It is definitely a mind bender.  I didn’t see what was coming until it hit me.  I’m not going to spoil this one for you.  If you want to know more, go here.  Otherwise just watch it yourself.  It might creep you out, but you’ll be entertained as well.  Hitchcockesque, but with sex and violence.  Ok?

On the other hand, don’t waste your time with Flightplan, a Jodie Foster vehicle.  Now, I’ve always felt Ms. Foster was a fine actress.  And I suppose her acting was just fine in this picture as well.  But what a waste of film this story was.  Just full of holes and plot contrivances that had me shaking my head in disbelief.  Which is not good, because a movie is supposed to make you believe in the reality on the screen.  The entire scenario was pure rubbish, and I felt like I was being toyed with throughout the film.  Well, I was not biting.  Better things can be found to with those two hours, trust me.

Crossing Over

No, I am not crossing over to the dark side, wherever that might be.  Last night was movie night, and as the title of this post foreshadows, the film I watched was called Crossing Over.

As regular readers know it’s kinda hit and miss with me and movies as I am pretty much out of touch with popular American culture.  Netflix has helped a little (although I tend to order Korean movies from there, go figure), but I still occasionally pick up “street movies” which is always a bit of crap shoot in all respects (quality of the DVD and quality of the content).

Which is a long way to say I had never heard of Crossing Over.  I picked it up because I recognized members of the cast–Harrison Ford, Ashley Judd, and Ray Liotta.  No clue what the movie was going to be about story-wise, but I liked my odds since it came with a talented cast.

Alright, so the actors acted at least up to expected standards.  And the story revolves around an interesting and topical issue–immigration.  But as the opening credits rolled and I saw the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detention facility in L.A., well, I pretty much guessed what I was in for–a heapin’ helpin’ of pungent Hollywood propoganda.  And that’s what I got.

Let’s see how many illegal aliens undocumented workers were being oppressed by those meanies at DHS.   Young Mexican mother and countless other helpless immigrants doing factory work Americans won’t do?  Of course.  We also had the sad tales of a young Australian actress, a Jewish atheist from the UK, an orphaned girl from Nigeria, and a family from Bangladesh all at the mercy of those evil immigration agents.  And oh, just to round out the stew (heh, in the melting pot!) we had storylines involving legal Iranian and Korean immigrants.

Are you with me so far?  Good that was the easy part!

So, of course the villians in the story are those thankless rubes charged with enforcing U.S. immigration law.  Now, Harrison Ford’s character is somewhat sypathetic to the plight of the illegals and is roundly castigated for his kindness by his peers.  The opening scene sets the tone, as Ford inquires about the health of one of the capturees as is given a ration of sh*t about it.  Then we move on to a clothing factory raid where Ford finds a young woman hiding.  He appears ready to pretend he doesn’t see her until another ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent happens along and asks what he’s waiting for “a marriage proposal”?  So, of course Ford hauls her out to the waiting bus.  But the women has a child staying with friends and begs Ford to take her pay there so the boy won’t be put out on the street.  Ford responds that he can’t help her, and she continues pleading and just before being placed on the bus she shoves a piece of paper into his hands.  His cronies ridicule him and he throws the paper on the ground telling them to lay off.  Of course, that night he goes back to the factory and searches the parking lot with a flashlight until he finds the paper and rescues the child.  Nice guy in the wrong job apparently.

Next up is Ray Liotta playing an immigration official responsible for approving green card applications.  He’s involved in a traffic accident with the illegal Australian actress.  And of course he tells her he can get her a green card in exchange for two months of sex.  She agrees, but feels lousy about it.  Go figure.

It gets worse.  We are then introduced to a teenage girl from Bangladesh, giving a presentation to her school classmates all decked out in the Keffiyeh headwear.  She is talking about the courageous 9/11 terrorists and how their motives were misunderstood.  She said that these poor oppressed people were only trying to be heard, and since all anyone talks about since the attacks are Islamic extremists, they were successful.  Oh she goes on and on with graphic descriptions of being “heard” above “roaring jet engines” slamming into steel buildings. Disgusting. Her classmates are going wild calling her all sorts of names (like sand monkey) and finally the teacher makes her sit down.  Now, I have to admit I was just about as pissed as her classmates yelling at the TV to get her ass out of the country.  But what really got my goat was that these Hollywood pukes actually tried to make this girl a sympathetic character.  The failed miserably I believe in attempting to justify the senseless murder of 3000 innocents.  But oh did they try!

Which brings us to the next depiction of the big baddies from DHS.  See, the school principle gave a copy of the girl’s report to the folks at Homeland Security.  And that night there was the proverbial knocking on the door by government thugs.  Turns out the girl’s family was in the country illegally, except for two siblings who were born in the USA (no relation to Bruce Springsteen I’m sure).  So, the girl is questioned harshly about her remarks and she responds with the old “I thought there was free speech in this country” routine.  People tend to foget about the consequences of expressing unpopular viewpoints.  Ask the Dixie Bitches Chicks.  Say what you want, but take responsibility for your words, don’t whine about it. The DHS agent in charge is similarly unimpressed with this line of argument.  Other agents search the room and find her diary expressing suicidal ideations and her computer showed she was a frequent visitor to jihadi websites.  Somehow these misguided government agents put 2+2 together and came up with the ridiculous conclusion that the girl was a potential threat to America.  Duh!  The girl pleads that she only said she understood why the terrorists wanted to be “heard”, not that she agreed with their methods.  The cold hearted DHS folks weren’t buying it and hauled her off to the detention facility gulag in San Pedro.  Bastards.

So then we meet Ashley Judd’s character, an immigration lawyer who won’t countenance this paranoid nonsense from DHS, calling it “ridiculous” that the government would consider this girl a threat based on the most “circumstantial evidence”.  Only problem was since the girl was an illegal she had no due process rights and Judd was told she would be deported.  Just to prove the government wasn’t totally heartless, Judd was told that if the girl went quietly with one of her parents the other could remain behind with the two natural born Americans, provided they didn’t make any trouble.  Judd was outraged but powerless to do more than rage against the machine.  So we are then treated to a tearful scene in the detention facility when the girl learns she must depart the country she so recently gleefully justified being attacked by sick, cowardly bastards.  Funny how that worked out.

Sorry for the spoilers, but damn, I’m still pretty pissed at what this movie was trying to “sell” to the American people. 

The Korean immigrants had a son who got involved with some local Korean gang bangers, and the Iranians murdered a daugher for disrepecting the family by becoming to Western in her world view (she was sleeping with a Mexican-American boyfriend, God Allah forbid.  Funny thing about that was when I looked this film up on Wikipedia I discovered this bit: “The film originally featured a scene in which an Iranian character is murdered by her brother in an honor killing, but the National Iranian American Council opposed the plotline as being unrealistic and offensive, and the killing was rewritten as a crime of passion to remove all reference to “family honor”.  Heh, that didn’t work out to well either.  I knew right away it was in fact an “honor” killing.

Ok, other than that I really liked this movie.  Seriously.  I thought it was well made, pretty well written, and entertaining.  And the best thing is I think it had the opposite impact from the one intended.  I believe most people would agree after seeing this movie that people who come to the USA illegally had best mind their P’s and Q’s.  Americans are not sympathetic to scofflaws, especially those who think crashing airliners into buildings is a cool way to be “heard”. 

Watch it yourself and see what you think.  I didn’t spoil *all* the good parts.  Promise.

 

 

Premonition

No, this is not another post about possible future events here on the Korean peninsula.  It’s about the movie I watched last night starring Sandra Bullock.

The film is called Premonition and Bullock plays a housewife and mother going about the humdrum routine of her day.  And then there’s a knock on the door and it’s the Sheriff bringing news that her husband has died in a car accident.  She is of course devastated and gets through the rest of the day in zombie-like fashion with the help of her mother.  And when she wakes up the next day her husband is there in the kitchen having his morning coffee.  Except it wasn’t the next day.

I won’t go any further, as I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not viewed this 2007 film.  I’ve always been a fan of Bullock and her acting does not disappoint in this challenging role.  Although come to think of it, it was never Bullock’s acting that I liked, I also enjoyed looking at her.  I guess we are all getting older, but her caboose has certainly spread since last time I saw her in a movie.  Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been around skinny-ass Korean women too long.  Now, I know that criticism of Bullock is shallow and unfair, not to mention irrelevant to the part she played.  But by the accounts I’ve read she’s a quite the bitch in real life, so I don’t mind casting a few stones her way.  Ok?

Anyway, I had a feeling the movie would be good when I ordered it from Netflix.  Call it a premonition.  And the movie was nicely done.  You know, these “vision from the future” things can be hard to pull off, but the quirky use time juxtaposition was quite creative and unique.  You have to pay attention as it all gets a little confusing, but then again, that’s the intent I suppose.  I thought the scene with the Catholic priest was pretty contrived, but other than that I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what was going on.

I give this one a 4 out of 5.  I suspect some want like the ending, but I thought it worked.

Catch and Release

No, I’m not talking about Obama’s plan for what to do with captured enemy combatants.  Catch and Release is the title of a movie I watched this week.  Or more correctly, tried to watch.  Only made it halfway through before turning it off in disgust.  Rather than being entertained, I was irratated.  It started out slow, then got worse.  Insipid, shallow, and dull.  Which is too bad, because there were some good actors associated with this wreck of a movie.  Jennifer Garner, Juliette Lewis and Kevin Smith (aka silent Bob) were wasted talent on this shell of a story.  Hey, my first zero rating!  I’ll give it that.

Also watched a film called The Secret.  This was was just plain ass weird in a disturbing kind of way.  First time I had seen the whole ‘mom/wife possesses daughter’s body’ thing done as something other than comedy.  I guess it had its moments and it was mildly entertaining, but when the “wife” tries to seduce the husband while in her daughter’s body, it was just a bit over the top for me.  Stars David Duchovny as the would be incesterous father/husband.  I’ll give it a 2 out of 5.

And that’s about it from here folks.

The Civilization of Maxwell Bright

Frequent commeneter Dennis recommended I watch The Civilization of Maxwell Bright and it arrived in this weeks Netflix shipment.

This 2005 “Indie” was a little choppy, but quite enjoyable.  The title character is basically a total prick who has given up on American women after several relationships failed violently.  So, he procures a “mail order bride” from China.  They say a leopard doesn’t change his spots, but he is charmed by her demure Asian ways.  And she has her work cut out for her in trying to help him understand the error of his ways.

The film was actually quite charming.  Funny in places, if not a bit over the top.  I think I enjoyed watching the dynamics of the cultural differences between East and West in the realm of relationships.  Mrs. Bright is a devout Buddist and I really found the religious underpinnings in the story quite fascinating.

No big name stars in this movie, althought Carol Kane who I haven’t seen in forever, made a brief appearance.  The cinematography was crap, which was somewhat distracting.  Overall though, the story made this a nice way to spend the evening.  3+ stars out of 5.

Next

Two fine films last night.

Next, starring Nicolas Cage and Julianne Moore.  Cage’s character can see two minutes into the future and he makes a living as a second tier magician and blackjack player in Las Vegas.  He gets noticed by the FBI who “enlist” his help in preventing a smuggled nuclear weapon from being detonated in Los Angeles harbor.  Admittedly the whole time travel/seeing into the future genre appeals to me and this film (very loosely based on a Philip Dick short story) was pretty well done.  Nice little cameo appearence by Cage’s Korean bride as well.  It holds the attention well, but for me the ending was a big disappointment.  Still, for entertainment value I’m giving it a 4/5 rating.  You can read what Wiki has to say here.

Stardust is a nice little fantasy/fairy tale/romance/action film with a great overall job from an ensemble cast, including a hilarious Robert DeNiro as a gay pirate and Michelle Pfeiffer as a wicked witch.  Again, entertaining and fun to watch, with some laughs along the way.  A solid 4 in my book.

As I’ve mentioned before, since moving to Korea in 2005 I’m pretty much out of touch with popular culture in America.  Both of these movies came out in 2007 and I had heard nothing about either.  The nice thing about my Netflix subscription is I can read a little blurb and at least gain a little idea about what I’m renting.

Next up in my Netflix queue is The Civilization of Maxwell Bright, an independent film highly recommended by Dennis, a frequent commenter here at LTG.

And yes, I know my reviews suck, that’s why I provide the Wiki links.  But at least it gives me something to post, right?

Rumor has it

Tonight’s movie was a 2005 film called, you guessed it, Rumor Has It.

This was a pretty good watch and if I had to describe it, I’d say it was like watching a sequel to The Graduate.  30 years after.  Some pretty funny moments to be sure, like when Anniston’s character believes she has slept with her father.  No worries, it wasn’t really sick or twisted, just some bizarre circumstances. I can’t really say more without giving away spoilers (er, can you spoil a film that’s four years old?). 

Jennifer Anniston stars with strong support from Shirley MacLaine and Kevin Costner.  4 out of 5 for me. 

Ssanghwajom

What does that mean in English?  Hell if I know.  It’s the title of a Korean movie I recently watched.

What was it about?  Well, this street video wasn’t subtitled so my guess is as good as yours.

Here’s what I could surmise:  Seems the King has a squire or knight or whatever.  And he loves him.  Not like a brother, but as a lover.  The King aslo has a Queen (as in wife).  I think she was from China.

So, the King was expected to provide an heir.  Maybe under Chinese duress.  Again, without understanding the dialog, I’m kinda guessing.  But these “different” looking Asian guys showed up and started talking, and that talk was subtitled in Korean, so it had to be China, right?

Anyway, the King just can’t bring himself to do the deed with the Queen, so he gives the chore to his beloved squire.  And after a couple of fitful starts, it turns out that the King’s lover likes sex with a woman.  And yeah, of course they wind up falling in love.

The King gets kinda jealous over this turn of events, and mayhem breaks out, heads are offed, and the climatic scene has the King and his lover in an intense sword fight which concludes with both of them dead.

Sort of a Brokeback Mountain meets Camelot situation.

What surprised me was the rather graphic sexuality.  Not hard core of course, but comparable to the stuff you might get in a hotel room.  Or so I’ve (ahem) been told.

How graphic?  Well, the King and his lover did some deep tongue kissing and some simulated anal.  The scenes with the Queen were also pretty hot.  A bit much for me, but I’m an old fart.

Well, for not getting more than 5% of the spoken word, I think I followed the story pretty well.  And I was sufficiently entertained enough to watch the whole thing.

Even without a clue, I’ll give a solid 3 out of 5.  If I missed something significant, let me know.

Please Teach Me English

Another night, another Korean movie.  This time it was Please Teach Me English.  This film was as sweet as cottoncandy, and just about as nourishing.  I tried really hard to like this movie, and it did have it’s moments.  But at the end I was disappointed.  I just didn’t care about any of the characters.  It was hollow, empty, and devoid of charm.  About the only thing I found mildly of interest was the Korean take on the whole “I gotta learn English” thing.  Everyone in the class had their own reason for being there, but given the choice none of them would have been.  I also thought the waeguks (foriegners) were portrayed with all the typical stereotypes on overdrive, which means unsympathetically.  Again, I wanted this movie to be better and it could have been as the concept was a good one.  Ah well, I will reward its potential by giving it a 3 out of 5.

I also watched Renee Zellweger in New in Town.  Bleah.  Totally predicatable Hollywood fluff.  It failed to even entertain, which to my reckoning is a pretty significant failure in a movie.  Cornball to the extreme and a total waste of time.  It sucked and was a total waste of time.  A solid 1.

Attack the Gas Station!

Ok, as previously noted I like most Korean movies.  Attack the Gas Station! was definitely a disappointment however, even moreso because it had come recommended as a “must see”.  Well, there’s no accounting for taste I suppose.  The whole film seemed rather pointless, psuedo-violence and sight gags repeated repetitively.  For a film that I imagine was intended as a comedy (ok, Wiki says “satire”), the laughs were few and far between.  The Netflix cover indicated it was a commetary on the “social turmoil in contemporary South Korea” (it was filmed in 1999). I must have missed that part.  It took me two nights to get through it, as I fell asleep half way through.  Here’s what Wikipedia had to say.  If you appreciate what passes for comedy on Korean TV, perhaps you’ll like this film. As for me, I’ll give it a 1 rating, because I thought it sucked. 

The other film I watched (again courtesy of Netflix) was Ditto.  I knew what to expect from this one, as I had watched the American remake The Lake House.  There were some pretty significant plot changes between the two, and I found the American version more satisfying.  Anyway, the story is about a young Korean woman attending university in 1979 who is able to communicate with another student in the year 2000 via HAM radio, through some Twilight Zone type magic.  What I found most interesting were the references to events in Korea during the late 70s of which I was vaguely familiar. Seeing them dramatized was pretty fascinating.  I really didn’t like the ambiguous ending, but had I seen this version first, perhaps I wouldn’t have expected more.  Anyway, other than being even a tad more melodramatic than the Korean norm, it was not a bad watch.  Solid 3 from me on this one.

With this post I’ve innaugarated a new post category I believe is aptly named “movies”.  Up next: Please Teach Me English.  Bet you can’t wait!