Beasts Clawing at Straws (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Nasty and twisty

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South Korean film “Beasts Clawing at Straws” is a nasty and twisty comic thriller about a group of seedy figures trying to win and survive. While there are surely a number of unpleasant and violent moments to make you wince, the movie is often cheerfully morbid as deftly handling its deliberately complicated plot, and we come to go along with that gladly even though we observe its unlikable characters’ desperate struggles from the distance.

At the beginning, the movie, which is set in a port city named Pyeongtaek, sets up its three separate plots one by one. Joong-man (Bae Sung-woo) is the owner of a failing seafood restaurant who also does a part-time job in a local bathhouse while his wife is not working, and the opening scene shows how he comes across something which may change his miserable and unhappy life once for all. While he is going through his night worktime as usual, someone enters the bathhouse and then puts a big bag in one of the lockers in the bathhouse, and Joong-man subsequently discovers that bag while checking the lockers as usual around the end of his worktime.

After coming to realize what is in that bag, Joong-man cannot help but feel tempted by this unexpected opportunity given to him. Because whoever put that bag in the locker does not seem to be looking for it for now, all Joong-man has to do is putting that bag in the storage room along with many other things to be found by their owners someday and then waiting for a right moment when he can take that bag to his home.

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In the meantime, we are also introduced to Tae-yeong (Jung Woo-sung), a customs official who has been pressured a lot by a very serious financial trouble. While trying to do a private business along with some woman, he happened to borrow lots of money from a local loan shark, but, alas, that woman turned out to be a professional grifter, and now Tae-yeong is constantly demanded to pay off his debt by that loan shark, who is quite ready to do anything if Tae-yeong cannot give him anything.

Although there is not much time for him, Tae-yeong still believes that he can get out of this grim circumstance because of a big chance he recently came across. There is a person who really needs to get out of the country without leaving any trace, and that person in question already bribed Tae-yeong for passing the customs without any trouble, but Tae-yeong turns out to have his own plan behind his back for getting more than enough money to pay off his debt, and he needs some help from his distant cousin, who is incidentally one of the goons working for that loan shark.

The third plot belongs to Mi-ran (Shin Hyun-bin), a married woman who has worked in a nightclub since she happened to lose lots of money due to her unwise stock market speculation. Still bitter and resentful about her big mistake which ruined their life, her husband frequently abuses her, and she has been pretty helpless about that, but then there comes a certain idea to her not long after she gets involved with Jin-tae, a young Korean Chinese guy who seems to be willing to do anything for her.

As these three plots independently get thickened step by step, the screenplay by director/writer Kim Yong-hoon, which is based on the novel of the same name by Keisuke Sone, keeps us guessing how these three plots will eventually converge in the end, while throwing several different elements to confound and intrigue us. There is a severely mutilated body found in a local lake, and then we meet a cop who busily snoops around here and there for investigating his latest case, and then there comes a certain crucial character who may be more cunning and dangerous than many of other characters in the film.

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I will not go into details for not spoiling your entertainment, but I can tell you instead that you will enjoy the film a lot if you are a connoisseur of those twisty crime movies of the Coen Brothers. While often jolting us with several gut-chilling moments of violence, the movie also shows a wry sense of humor, and its dark mix of humor and violence makes a striking contrast with the growing urgency and desperation surrounding its main characters. No matter how much they try hard for survival, the situation gets messier and messier for them, and, not so surprisingly, they all come to face the inevitable consequences of their actions in one way or another.

The movie is buoyed a lot by the well-rounded ensemble performance from its good cast members, who certainly have lots of fun with playing their broad but colorful characters. While Jeon Do-yeon and Jung Woo-sung are the most notable members in the bunch, they seldom overshadow other substantial performers including Bae Sung-woo, Jung Man-sik, Jin Kyung, Shin Hyun-bin, Jung Ga-ram, Park Ji-hwan, and Bae Jin-woong, and the special mention goes to Youn Yuh-Jung, who seems to be stuck in a thankless role at first but then gets her own moment just like the other main cast members in the film.

On the whole, “Beasts Clawing at Straws” is a solid genre exercise which surprises and entertains us enough, and now I come to muse a bit on what I personally learned from “A Simple Plan” (1998) and “No Country for Old Men” (2007). Yes, we have all been told that we should report to the police when we come across something valuable belonging to somebody else, but can we really beat that temptation if we are under such a circumstance? Well, after watching the movie, you will probably think twice if such a situation happens to you.

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The Last Full Measure (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Honoring a hero

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“The Last Full Measure” attempts to pay a tribute to one brave young soldier who did an exceptional act of valor and devotion in the Vietnam War, but it somehow feels rather hollow while not presenting well who he really was as a human being. As mainly focusing on the deep grief of people who knew him, the movie gives us several genuinely emotional moments to be appreciated, but it remains curiously distant to the central figure of the story, and we come to observe its somberly respectful drama without enough care or attention even while recognizing its good intentions.

The central figure in question in the movie is William H. Pitsenbarger (Jeremy Irvine), a United Sates Air Force Pararescueman who saved over sixty men during a perilous rescue mission in Vietnam on April 11th, 1966. Although he could just remain in his rescue chopper during that time, Pitsenbarger courageously chose to go down right to the battleground for saving more soldiers, and he ultimately gave his life for getting his job done as much as he could.

Although Pitsenbarger received the US Air Force Cross medal after his death, his parents and many veterans who worked with him or were saved by him believe that he deserves to be promoted to the Medal of Honor, and, as shown during the opening scene, their latest request in 1999 happens to reach to Scott Huffman (Sebastian Shaw), one of Pentagon staff members who is incidentally about to go through a major point of his advancing career. Although he is not particularly interested in reviewing that request, Huffman has no choice but to do the job as demanded by his direct superior, and he soon embarks on meeting a number of interviewees who can testify about Pitsenbarger’s selfless act during that time.

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One of these interviewees is Tully (William Hurt), who sent that request on the behalf of Pitsenbarger’s parents. He was a close comrade of Pitsenbarger, and he tells Huffman a bit about that crucial moment when Pitsenbarger decided to go down from his rescue chopper. Even though he might have gotten himself killed even before reaching to the battleground, Pitsenbarger did not hesitate at all from what should be done in his viewpoint, and he certainly left a lot of impression on those many soldiers saved by him.

Through Tully, Huffman comes to contact with several veterans who were there during that time, and each of them has each own story to tell. While Takoda (Samuel L. Jackson) and Ray (Ed Harris) seem to be fine on the surface, it later turns out that both of them have lots of survivor’s guilt behind their gruff façade, and there is a little heartbreaking moment when Takoda struggles to talk with Pitsenbarger’s parents on the phone at one night. In case of Jimmy (Peter Fonda), he is still battling with the post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his terrible war experience, and an unnerving scene between him and Huffman conveys to us a lot about how much this deeply troubled recluse has suffered during more than 30 years.

Huffman also meets Pitsenbarger’s parents Frank (Christopher Plummer) and Alice (Diane Ladd), and he comes to emphasize more with their desperate wish for their dear dead son getting the full recognition he deserves. Although he does not have many years to live due to his terminal illness, Frank firmly believes that there is still a chance for seeing his son finally receiving the Medal of Honor, and Alice stands by her husband as before, while fondly remembering their son along with him.

In the meantime, the movie occasionally gives us flashback scenes which show us how dangerous the situation surrounding Pitsenbarger and other soldiers was. As admitted later in the story by a prominent politician who was their commander during that time, it was pretty disastrous for everyone on the battleground, and director/writer Todd Robinson did a good job of presenting their bloody chaos on the screen.

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However, Pitsenbarger, who is mostly presented via these flashback scenes, is not depicted with enough human qualities. As the movie keeps emphasizing on his undeniable courage, he becomes more like a broad icon instead of a vivid character filled with flesh and blood, and that is the main reason why the expected finale leaves some empty impression despite sincere respect to Pitsenbarger.

Anyway, Robinson assembles a bunch of various performers for his movie, and many of them are reliable as before. Although he is tasked with playing a colorless surrogate hero for the audiences, Sebastian Stan acquits himself well, and the other notable cast members including Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Peter Fonda (This is his final film role, by the way), John Savage, Diane Ladd, Amy Madigan, LisaGay Hamilton, Bradley Whitford, Dale Dye, and Jeremy Irvine are solid on the whole.

Overall, “The Last Full Measure”, whose title is derived from a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, is a well-intentioned but flawed drama film, and I cannot recommend it for several weak aspects including its weak plot and characterization, but I will not deny that I enjoyed watching some of its main cast members including Hurt, Plummer, Jackson, Harris, Savage, and Fonda transcending their rote materials at times. That is indeed a good example of the power of acting, and you may be interested in watching the movie just for admiring how they make it work to some degree.

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To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): A middling second chapter

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Netflix film “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You”, which is a sequel to “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” (2018), is a middling second chapter which feels rather flat and pedestrian compared to its predecessor. Although it is not wholly devoid of charm and spirit thanks to its solid cast, the movie is often disappointing as merely trudging along its predictable plot without bringing anything new or fresh to the story, and I must confess that I often found myself bored and impatient when I watched it in this morning.

The story begins at the point not long after the finale of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”. After going through several ups and downs in the previous film, our high schooler heroine Lara Jean (Lana Condor) eventually begins a really serious romantic relationship with Peter (Noah Centineo), and the opening scene shows us how much she is excited about her first official date with him. When he finally comes to her family house, her father and her younger sister sincerely wish a good luck to them, and they surely have a nice time at a posh restaurant as playfully reminding each other of how much they love each other.

However, of course, there later comes a trouble into Lara Jean’s life. If you have seen the previous film, you surely know that Lara Jean’s younger sister sent Lara Jean’s old love letters to five boys including Peter, and one of the other four recipients besides Peter turns out to be quite interested in getting closer to Lara Jean. When she unexpectedly receives the letter from John Ambrose (Jordan Fisher), Lara Jean is certainly surprised, and then she becomes quite conflicted because, well, she comes to see that she still has some old feeling toward him.

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Not so surprisingly, the situation becomes more complicated when Lara Jean goes to a nursing home for her volunteer work and then encounters John Ambrose, who also comes to the nursing home for the same purpose. This accidental encounter of theirs feels pretty awkward to both of them right from the beginning, but they soon find themselves more attracted to each other as working and spending time together, and that certainly leads to more conflict for Lara Jean, who has not told everything to Peter yet.

While keeping hesitating between Peter and John Ambrose, Lara Jean comes to have more doubts on her current relationship with Peter mainly because he often fails to show her enough consideration and affection. When he later comes to know about what is going on between her and John Ambrose, he is surely not so pleased about that even though he was once close to John Ambrose, and that accordingly puts more distance between him and Lara Jean.

Now many of you get a pretty good idea on where the story is heading, and I assure you that you will not be surprised much. As becoming more distant to Peter, Lara Jean comes to wonder whether he still has some feeling toward his ex-girlfriend who was incidentally her best friend in the past, and that consequently pushes her toward more to John Ambrose. Although their interactions are not totally free of awkwardness, Lara Jean begins to consider beginning a relationship with him, and then she happens to see a photograph suggesting something serious going on between Peter and his ex-girlfriend.

Around that narrative point, the screenplay by Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe, which is based on “P.S. I Still Love You” by Jenny Han, throws more predictable moments, and the movie consequently loses its narrative momentum during its third act. Although we get some amusement from how Lara Jean’s younger sister attempts a matchmaking between their dad and a certain neighbor, that subplot remains underdeveloped on the whole. In case of a little poignant moment between Lara Jean and Peter’s ex-girlfriend later in the story, it comes too late in my humble opinion, and we are not so surprised at all because we have already discerned a misunderstanding between them.

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Anyway, the movie is still mildly entertaining thanks to the likable lead performance from Lara Condor, who demonstrates here again that she is a promising actress with considerable talent and presence. In addition to conveying well to us her character’s growing conflict and confusion, Condor handles well a number of comic moments in the film, and she is particularly funny and charming during the opening scene as fully embracing her character’s irrepressible bliss. To be frank with you, I hope she will soon move onto better things after this film and the following sequel “To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean” (2020), which will be released on Netflix several months later.

In case of the other main cast members of the film, they are mostly stuck in their functional roles. While Noach Centineo and Jordan Fisher are suitably cast as two handsome boys around our heroine, they do not have many things to do except looking desirable, and the other substantial supporting performers including Anna Cathcart, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Trezzo Mahoro, Holland Taylor, and John Corbett are sadly under-utilized, though they try as much as they can for bringing some life and personality to their respective roles.

In conclusion, “To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You” is a fairly passable product, but it did not engage me enough for recommendation, though I must say that director/cinematographer Michael Fimognari did an adequate job in technical aspects. Seriously, I do not have much expectation on “To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean” at present, but I wish it will not be more mediocre than this at least.

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Horse Girl (2020) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): As she is losing her mind

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I was often baffled and confused as watching “Horse Girl”, which was released on Netflix not long after it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in last month. As its heroine becomes more mentally disturbed and confused along the story, the film merely moves onto one weird moment to another without generating enough narrative momentum to hold our attention, and we come to remain rather distant to its heroine’s gradual descent into madness during its second half.

At first, everything looks fine and all right for Sarah (Allison Brie), a shy, awkward young woman without much social life. While she has lived with a female roommate around her age, there is not much interaction between her and her roommate, and it seems that her only friend is Joan (Molly Shannon), a kind and generous older woman who has worked with her at their workplace.

And we get to know about her strong emotional attachment on a horse in a local ranch. For some unspecified reason vaguely implied via a short flashback shot later in the story, Sarah wants to be near that horse as much as possible, and she also approaches to a young girl who routinely comes to the ranch for her riding lesson, though she does not know anything about that young girl at all.

Meanwhile, things get a bit better for Sarah when her roommate suggests that they should have a double date with her boyfriend and one of his friends. Although she prefers to watch her favorite TV drama series alone as usual, Sarah reluctantly agrees to spend some time along with others, and, what do you know, she finds herself having much more fun than expected thanks to music, dance, and, yes, alcohol. In addition, she becomes quite attracted to her date, and it looks like the feeling is mutual between them.

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However, strange things begin to happen to Sarah, and she becomes quite unnerved because of that. Besides starting to show the serious cases of sleepwalking and time loss, she frequently dreams of herself being in an alien place along with two unconscious people she has never seen before, and she is surprised when she happens to spot one of these two people during one day.

Like any sensible people, Sarah wonders whether she is going crazy, but those weird things feel so real to her that she comes to believe that there is an insidious conspiracy around her. Just because she resembles her grandmother a lot, she thinks she is actually a clone of her grandmother, and she fears that aliens who made her will take her away sooner or later.

Of course, she surely knows how well preposterous that sounds, but she cannot help but driven by her madness day by day. At one point, she approaches to that man she saw in her dreams, and she attempts to get to know more about him, but that only results in more conflict between her and her roommate, who comes to worry about Sarah more than before. In case of Sarah’s aforementioned date, he is willing to listen and talk with her during their second meeting, but, not so surprisingly, there soon comes a point where he decides that enough is enough.

And the story goes further into more madness and confusion along with its heroine. Although it gives us some respite when Sarah subsequently comes to stay at a mental hospital after a striking moment of mental breakdown, she remains quite unstable and disturbed as before, and we accordingly get a series of strange moments filtered through her increasingly unreliable viewpoint.

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Naturally, we come to wonder more about what really makes Sarah tick, but director/co-writer/co-producer Jeff Baena never gives us any clear answer for that as steadily making us more confused than before. Thanks to cinematographer Sean McElwee, the movie is constantly shrouded in unnerving ambience, and there are a number of visually impressive moments which effectively reflect our heroine’s warped state of mind as accompanied with the unnerving score by Josiah Steinbrick and Jeremy Zuckerman.

Although we still keep getting baffled about what is exactly going on, Alison Brie, who has been known for her notable performances in several acclaimed TV series including “Mad Men”, “Community”, and “GLOW”, gives a good performance which compensates for the weak aspects of the film to some degree. While we do not get to know that much about her character, Brie, who is also the co-writer/co-producer of the movie, did a fine job of conveying to us her character’s deeply troubled state of mind, and she is poignant when her character finally finds her peace of mind during the ambiguous finale.

In contrast, several other notable performers in the movie are rather wasted in their functional roles, and that was a major disappointment for me. While Molly Shannon is reliable as usual, she is mostly limited by her thankless role, and the same thing can be said about Jay Duplass, David Paymer, and Paul Reiser, who merely come and then go during their respective brief appearances.

On the whole, I cannot recommend “Horse Girl” due to its several flaws, but I admire what Baena and Brie, who previously worked together in Baena’s previous film “The Little Hours” (2017), attempt to present on the screen. Although their overall result is not as successful as intended in my trivial opinion, the movie shows their considerable talent nonetheless, and I hope they will soon move onto better things in the future.

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An Honest Candidate (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Suddenly, she can’t lie!

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I chuckled from time to time as watching the first half of South Korean comedy film “An Honest Candidate”, which could be one of the funnier South Korean movies of this year if it pushed its rather familiar premise harder with more satiric edges. While the movie is held together well by another engaging comic performance from its wonderful lead actress, it begins to lose its comic momentum due to a number of plot contrivances during its second half, and I remained disappointed as phlegmatically watching it eventually arriving at its predictable finale.

Ra Mi-ran, who has been more notable thanks to her hilarious performance in “Miss & Mrs. Cops” (2019), plays Joo Sang-sook, a congresswoman in the middle of her re-election campaign. As shown from a TV debate of her and other candidates, she is your average dishonest politician with some dirty sides to hide behind her back, but she confidently deals with hard questions thrown at her, and everything goes pretty well as before for not only her and others around her including her loyal assistant.

During its early part, the movie generates lots of laughs from its heroine’s shamelessly hypocritical sides. Yes, there was a time when she was an idealistic activist pursuing justice, but she has turned into a jaded and cynical politician willing to lie and pretend for getting more votes from the residents of her district, and her loser husband does not have any problem with that, though it is always inconvenient for them to move back and forth between two very different residences every evening.

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Above all, Sang-sook has been hiding a fact which will certainly ruin her political career if it is ever exposed in public. Several years ago, she told others except her husband and assistant that her grandmother died, and that certainly drew lots of sympathy votes, but, what do you know, her grandmother has been actually alive while hiding in some remote place. When Sang-sook comes to visit her during one dark and stormy night, she does not hide her displeasure with her granddaughter’s hypocrisy at all, but she still cares about her granddaughter nonetheless, and she sincerely prays to her god for her granddaughter becoming honest after Sang-sook leaves.

Of course, something supernatural happens to Sang-sook not long after that. On the very next morning, she is surprised as finding herself saying whatever she feels or thinks without any inhibition, and that surely flabbergasts not only her but also her husband and assistant. Understandably panicked by this inexplicable change of his boss, Sang-sook’s assistant tries as much as he can for damage control, but Sang-sook still cannot help herself just like Jim Carrey’s lawyer hero in “Liar Liar” (1997), and we accordingly get plenty of laughs as she keeps blurting out her thoughts and feelings in front of others.

When Sang-sook’s assistant subsequently seeks help from a prominent political fixer, the situation seems to be under control for a while. Once discerning that Sang-sook really cannot lie at all, that political fixer suggests that they should go all the way with her unflappable honesty, and, to everyone’s surprise, that strategy works a lot better than they thought.

However, as some of you already expected, the mood becomes more serious than before later in the story when Sang-sook comes to realize that she has been inadvertently involved with a massive case of corruption for years. As being pushed toward more honesty and integrity than before, she cannot help but feel conflicted – especially after she comes to learn more of what has been committed behind her back and its ramifications.

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The plot seems to thicken as a stubborn news reporter tries to delve more into this case, but the movie is eventually hampered by its thin narrative and superficial characterization. While it tries to bring some tension into the story during its last act, it only comes to fizzle in the end, and the following finale is too easy and convenient to say the least. In addition, most of characters surrounding Sang-sook are more or less than broad cardboard figures to function as mere foils to interact with Sang-sook, and it often looks like the movie does not know how to utilize them for inducing more laughs from us.

Nevertheless, Ra diligently carries the film from the beginning to the end, and I particularly enjoyed how dexterously she handles numerous expected comic moments. I exactly knew when to laugh everytime, but, mainly thanks to Ra’s natural comic timing, I laughed harder than expected as watching the first half of the movie, and that is the main reason of my dissatisfaction with the second half, which, as far as I could remember, left me and the audiences around me in a less boisterous mood. In case of several notable supporting performers surrounding Ra, they are mostly under-utilized, but Kim Moo-yul did as much as he could do with his thankless role, and Na Moon-hee, who recently drew more of our attention thanks to her strong performance in “I Can Speak” (2017), steals the show as usual.

Directed by Chang You-jeong, “An Honest Candidate”, which is the remake of Brazilian comedy film “The Honest Candidate” (2014), is a lightweight product packed with some good laughs, but it is not funnier than “Miss & Mrs. Cops” or “Secret Zoo” (2019). Mainly because I gave these two movies 3 stars, I give “An Honest Candidate” 2.5 stars, but I assure you that you will not waste your money and time if you just want to laugh and smile.

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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): Harley Quinn and other hardcore ladies

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“Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is wild, uproarious, and, above all, exhilarating. Cheerfully and irreverently bouncing along with its loony anti-heroine and several other strong, colorful female characters, the movie constantly tickles and excites us via a number of inspired moments to be savored and appreciated, and the result is one of the better products from the DC Extended Universe.

The story opens with the animation prologue scene which gives us a brief but succinct summary of the rocky life and career of Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Despite her poor and miserable childhood years in Gotham City, Harley eventually grew up to become a promising young psychiatrist, but, alas, she came to fall in love with a certain notorious criminal figure at an asylum where she happened to work, and she willingly threw herself in madness and crime as helping her insane lover escape from the asylum and then becoming his partner-in-crime during next several years. Despite going through a number of pretty rough moments as shown in “Suicide Squad” (2016), she remained romantically attached to her man during that period, but then there comes a point where she cannot stand his vicious and abusive aspects anymore, so she decides to end her relationship with him once for all.

However, Harley is not particularly willing to announce this breakup to those denizens of the underworld of Gotham City because she wants to continue to have her own crazy fun and excitement as usual. Nobody wants to mess with her because they are afraid of any possible retaliation from that criminal figure who has been closely associated with her, so she keeps pretending that she is still in a relationship with him as before, and her wild nights are continued as usual.

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Nevertheless, as trying to move onto the next chapter of her criminal life, Harley soon becomes bored and frustrated. She manages to find her own small but cozy private place where she begins to live with an predatory animal pet she happens to acquire, but she still feels something unresolved and unventilated inside her, and then, of course, there soon comes a moment when she comes across a golden opportunity for closure and liberation by chance and then goes all the way without any hesitation at all.

While she surely gets a big dramatic moment of elevation as a result, the consequences of her impulsive action come upon her far earlier than expected. Now everyone in the town knows that Harley is no longer under the protection of her ex-boyfriend, and she soon finds herself targeted by many different criminals just like Keanu Reeves in “Jock Wick” (2014) and its two sequels.

And then things subsequently become more complicated when she gets seriously involved with Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a mean, ambitious, and self-absorbed crime lord who is about to obtain an important object which will enable him to become the most powerful criminal figure in the town. When that object in question happens to be snatched at the last minute, Sionis is quite enraged to say the least, and Harley has no choice but to follow his demand as being threatened by him and his brutal henchmen including Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), who is ready to utilize his particular set of skills at any moment.

In the meanwhile, the plot thickens as several other main characters enter the picture one by one. Besides a seasoned but strong-willed female cop who is determined to arrest Harley in addition to bringing down Sionis, there are 1) an exceptional lady singer working in Sionis’ bar, 2) a mysterious female figure armed with a lethal crossbow, and 3) a young but artful pickpocket girl who happens to be right in the middle of the situation.

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While it will not be much a spoiler to tell you that Harley and other main female characters eventually come to band together against Sionis and his henchman, the movie often surprises as ecstatically jumping among comedy, drama, and action, and the screenplay by Christina Hodson also throws some sincere moments of female solidarity into its boldly pulpy narrative. Although I must point out that the story becomes more predictable during the last act, director Cathy Yan enthralls us with a series of terrific physical action scenes which feel visceral and impactful while also fully packed with humor, style, and thrill, and she certainly demonstrates here that she is a skillful action movie director as good as, say, Patty Jenkins.

Under Yan’s competent direction, the main cast members of the film function well in their respective parts. As Margot Robbie, who was incidentally the saving grace of “Suicide Squad”, gleefully holds the center with her vibrant mix of charm and lunacy, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, and Ella Jay Basco hold each own place well around Robbie, and Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina look menacing and loathsome as required while never overshadowing Robbie and other ladies in the film.

Overall, “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is as fantabulous as intended in addition to being a vast improvement compared to “Suicide Squad”, which was the lowest point of the DC Extended Universe along with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016). I do not know whether we will soon see the next naughty adventure of Harley Quinn, but, seriously, I am already looking forward to that right now.

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My prediction on the 92nd Annual Academy Awards

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So far, this Oscar season has been pretty exciting. At first, “The Irishman” seemed to be the front runner, but then “Once Upon a Time …in Hollywood” went ahead with its considerable victory at the Golden Globe, but then there came “1917” and “Parasite”, a dark horse from South Korea which may make the history considering its possible chance to beat “1917” in the ongoing Best Picture Oscar race.

Meanwhile, many of other major categories have been quite clear during last several weeks. In case of the acting categories, all of the front runners won Golden Globe, SAG, BFCA and BAFTA, and we will be quite surprised if something similar to Olivia Colman winning the Best Actress Oscar in last year happens. In case of the technical categories, I am convinced that “1917” will garner 3 or 4 awards at least, and I think most of other Best Picture Oscar nominees will not be empty-handed in the end, though “The Irishman” will probably suffer the same humiliation “Gangs of New York” suffered 17 years ago.

Anyway, folks, here is my ever-incorrect Oscar Prediction, and let’s see how inaccurate my prediction is – and how much you can outsmart me. I am ready to be surprised, you know.

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