The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): You finally made it, Mr. Gilliam

themanwhokilledonquixote01.jpg

First, let me tell you a bit about my admiration on how tenacious Terry Gilliam has been during last two decades. Although his prime period mainly represented by “Brazil” (1985) and “12 Monkeys” (1995) had already passed many years ago, he has kept trying to make movies while sticking to his own style and imagination as before, and I respect his efforts even though I did not like much most of his recent works such as “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” (2009).

In case of his latest work “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”, some of you have probably heard about its long, notorious production history full of bad luck and troubles. While Gilliam started to prepare for the production of the film in 1989, it took 9 years for him to secure the funding for the production, and the shooting of the movie finally began in 2000 with Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp, but, unfortunately, due to a series of setbacks including the one resulted from Rochefort’s illness, the production was eventually terminated to the frustration of Gilliam and everyone else involved in the production. During next 16 years, Gilliam tried to restart the production of the film, but he kept facing more troubles on his way, and that certainly adds more notoriety to the movie, which became a sort of holy grail beyond his reach.

Finally, Gilliam came to restart the production of the film with Adam Driver and Jonathan Price as his two leading actors in 2017, and he completed the shooting of the film several months later, but, alas, there came another trouble to frustrate him a lot when the movie was about to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in last year. Due to the legal dispute between him and his former producer Paulo Branco, the movie was held in limbo for a while, but, fortunately, it was eventually allowed to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and it was subsequently released in a few countries including US and Canada.

themanwhokilledonquixote08

I am glad to see that the movie is released in South Korea this week, but I also have to tell you that “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” feels like an anti-climactic ending to its dramatic production history. Although there are several good moments to amuse and entertain us, the movie often trudges and stumbles mainly due to its weak narrative and thin characterization, and I came to observe its story and characters from the distance despite the admirable efforts from Gilliam and his cast and crew members.

The story of the movie is mainly told through an advertising director named Toby Grisoni, who is played by Driver. While he becomes more frustrated with the problematic production of a vodka commercial in some rural location of Spain, Grisoni happens to come across a DVD copy of an old student film which he and his friends made around 10 years ago in a nearby village, and he cannot help but become nostalgic as watching that film, which, like the commercial on which he is working, is based on “Don Quixote”. When he gets himself into another trouble on the next day, he promptly decides to go to that village, and he soon meets several village people who still remember him.

After learning that an old man who played Don Quixote for his student film is still alive, Grisoni instantly goes to where the old man lives, but he is caught off guard to see the old man mired in the delusion unintentionally caused by the making of his student film. The old man, played by Price, has believed that he is really Don Quixote, and he even thinks Grisoni is Sancho Panza, who is, as many of you know, Don Quixote’s famous squire.

themanwhokilledonquixote02

Quite perplexed and frightened by the old man’s madness, Grisoni quickly goes away from him, but, of course, he soon finds himself getting more involved with the old man, and that is where the movie begins to blur the line between reality and fantasy via a number of weird but humorous moments. There is an amusing sequence involved with a bunch of illegal immigrants, and then we get a comical duel scene between the old man and a mysterious knight, and then the story eventually arrives at a part where things get more outrageous for Grisoni and his crazy old man.

While it is apparent that Gilliam puts lots of effort into these and other notable moments in the film, the story, which is written by him and his co-writer Tony Grisoni, frequently loses its focus especially during its messy last act, and there are also several flawed aspects which distracted me a lot during my viewing. While I was bothered by several moments of crude humor including the ones involved with certain ethnic characters, I also noticed how the movie often objectifies most of substantial female characters in the story.

Anyway, the movie is not a total dud as being diligently carried by its two good lead performers. While Driver steadily holds the ground with his earnest performance, Price, whom I have always remembered fondly for his memorable lead performance in “Brazil”, deftly balances his character between humor and poignancy, and the movie works best whenever their characters push or pull each other on the screen.

In conclusion, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” is a little too flawed to be recommended, but it is a fascinating misfire to be appreciated at least, and you will probably want to pat on Gilliam’s back regardless of whether you like it or not. Although the overall result is not that satisfying, he finally made it, and we all know that means a lot to him.

themanwhokilledonquixote05

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Rosie (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): Homeless with her family

rosie03

“Rosie”, a small Irish independent film which was shown at the Jeonju International Film Festival early in this month and then was released in South Korean theaters in last week, looks into one ordinary woman’s hard struggle for herself and her dear family. While it is often difficult to watch to them driven further into more desperation and frustration, the movie works as an engaging drama which makes some strong points on its social subjects, and there are a number of calm but powerful moments which will definitely linger on your mind for a while after the very last shot of the film.

During the first half of the movie, we get to know about the very desperate circumstance of Rosie (Sarah Greene) and her family. They have been homeless since the house where they resided was recently sold by its owner, and they must find a new place to reside as soon as possible, but, as briefly conveyed to us at the beginning of the film, it has been pretty difficult for Rosie and her husband John Paul (Moe Dunford) to find any suitable place they can afford in Dublin. At present, they have no choice but to look for a hotel room where they can stay at least for one night, but it is also not that easy for them to find any hotel which can accommodate them and their four children.

Anyway, after checking almost every hotel on a list given to her, Rosie eventually manages to find a hotel where she and her family can stay for one night, but the next day soon comes, and things get busy as usual for her in the morning. After her husband goes to his workplace, she hurriedly takes three of her children to their schools, and then she looks for a hotel room again while frequently distracted by her youngest child Madison (Molly McCann), who, like any child at her age, often demands full attention from her mother.

rosie02

As we watch Rosie trying again and again to find any hotel to accommodate her and her family, it becomes quite possible that she and her family may not get a room this time. Due to a big event to be held in the city, many hotels are fully booked already, and it looks like Rosie and her family will have to go to a shelter for homeless people, but, unfortunately, there has already been a long waiting list for that.

Above all, it looks like Rosie and her family will have to endure their homeless status longer than they thought at first. At one point, her husband goes to a house which they may afford, but the house is already full of potential buyers when he arrives there, and he is even told by a real estate agent that the house may not be that suitable for his family.

In the meantime, we also see how this increasingly desperate circumstance affects Rosie’s children. While Madison remains rather oblivious to what is happening to the family, Millie (Ruby Dunne) and Alfie (Daragh McKenzie) have been more sensitive about their family’s ongoing homeless status, and there is a couple of heartbreaking moments which respectively show their growing shame about that. In case of Kayleigh (Ellie O’ Halloran), she eventually decides to do something for having a little respite away from her family, and the mood becomes a little more tense as Rosie and other family members look for her around here and there in the city.

Even at that point, the movie steadily maintains its detached attitude under the competent direction of director Paddy Breathnach, and the screenplay by Roddy Doyle delivers several succinct moments which subtly present some character details to notice. During one particular scene involved with Rosie’s mother, it is suggested that Rosie was not that happy with her parents for some reason, and we can discern what has been motivating Rosie to hold her family together as much as she can, though the movie does not spell that out loud for us.

rosie04

Above all, Sarah Green firmly holds the center with her strong performance. While never overlooking her character’s human flaws and vulnerability, Green is constantly compelling to watch, and we come to care about Rosie and her family even though the movie does not ask at all for any pity or sympathy on them. Considering that she has been rather unknown to many of us despite her considerable acting career, this film may be a career breakthrough for Green, and I certainly have some expectation on whatever she will give us during next several years.

It also should be mentioned that a few main cast members surrounding Green hold their own place well around her. While Moe Dunford, who has been mainly known for his supporting role in TV series “Vikings”, diligently supports Green, the young performers playing Rosie’s four children are equally fine in their respective roles, and they are especially good when they generate a brief moment of rapport along with Green and Dunford later in the story.

Overall, “Rosie” is a little overlooked movie which deserves more audiences in my opinion, and it is something you should not miss if you admire the works of Ken Roach or the Dardenne Brothers like me. This is indeed a dry, tough slice of life, but it will ultimately come to you as a solid family tale with sharp social messages, and you will agree that it earns its tentative moment of hope and optimism in the end.

rosie01

Posted in Movies | Tagged , | Leave a comment

See You Yesterday (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A little time travel adventure in Brooklyn

seeyouyesterday01

“See You Yesterday”, which was released on Netflix last Friday, is a little smart movie which puts its own distinctive touches on one of the most time-honored science fiction subjects. While it takes a familiar route packed with predictable narrative turns expected from its story subject, the movie brings some fresh air to its genre territory via its contemporary social background and issues, and the overall result is more engaging than expected with considerable emotional resonance.

Right from the beginning, the movie instantly establishes its story premise as its two young main characters, C.J. Walker (Eden Duncan-Smith) and her best friend Sebastian Thomas (Danté Crichlow), ready themselves for the latest trial on their secret high school science project. Based on what they have studied and learned at their science high school in Bronx, they have tried to invent a machine for ‘temporal relocation’, and it looks like they are living in an alternative modern world where even high school kids can easily access to the technology and knowledge associated with quantum mechanics. I was amused when I saw C.J. reading that famous book by Stephen Hawking which I still have not touched yet although I bought it more than 20 years ago, and I was certainly tickled by a brief conversation between C.J. and her supportive teacher, who is incidentally played by a recognizable performer who has been known mainly for a certain famous time travel movie.

After failing again in their latest trial, C.J. and Sebastian feel quite disappointed, but they are not daunted at all while keeping trying to solve those technical problems on their way to success. You may not wholly understand every technical detail of their science project, but you can sense at least that they are really smart kids driven by curiosity and ambition, and Eden Duncan-Smith and Danté Crichlow did a fine job of conveying to us their characters’ unadulterated pluck and intelligence.

seeyouyesterday02

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that C.J. and Sebastian eventually succeed after making some additional improvement on their time machine, and you will not be surprised when they come to see how their time travel can inadvertently alter the timeline. Although their time travel is technically limited within the span of a few days, even a small action of theirs can considerably change the timeline, as shown from when their seemingly harmless prank on C.J.’s ex-boyfriend unexpectedly leads to an irreversible outcome.

And then there comes a sudden tragedy into C.J. and Sebastian’s life. Like many other people around them, they are constantly aware of many dangers in their black neighborhood located in Brooklyn, but they are quite devastated nonetheless when C.J.’s older brother Calvin (Brian “Stro” Bradley) happens to be shot by two police detectives who mistake him for one of two robbers they are chasing after. As grieving over her older brother’s death, C.J. decides to use the time machine to prevent the incident, and Sebastian reluctantly participates in her plan although he is concerned about what may go wrong during their latest time travel.

Of course, things do not go that smoothly for them, and we are accordingly served with those familiar complications of time travel, but the screenplay by director Stefon Bristol and his co-writer Fredrica Bailey, which was expanded from Bristol’s 2017 short film of the same name, keeps things rolling along its increasingly complicated plot. Although it loses some of its narrative momentum during its last act, it does not get us confused at least, and we come to care more about what is being at stake for our two young characters.

seeyouyesterday03

In addition, the movie, which is the first feature film by Bristol and is produced by his mentor Spike Lee, distinguishes itself via its forthright approach to the social/political elements in its story. As shown several key scenes including the one involved with two aggressive local police officers, the movie is not afraid at all of showing its political position on race and police brutality, and you will not be surprised when a certain famous slogan is chanted at one point in the film.

The movie is also supported well by a number of good performers who imbue their respective roles with considerable life and personality. As the center of the movie, Duncan-Smith ably carries the film with her spirited performance, and I enjoyed how she and Crichlow effortlessly interact with each other on the screen. In case of the other main cast members in the film, Brian “Stro” Bradley, who previously appeared in “A Walk Among the Tombstones” (2014), is solid in his substantial supporting role, and the same thing can be said about Marsha Stephanie, Myra Lucretia Taylor, and Johnathan Nieves, who is hilarious as a classmate who has had a crush on C.J.

On the whole, “See You Yesterday” is a fairly entertaining science fiction drama mixed well with its sharp social/political messages, and you will probably come to root for its plucky heroine a lot as watching its finale. I must confess that I was initially a bit disappointed with how the movie ends its story, but, after reflecting more on its story and characters, I concluded that the finale fits well with the rest of the story, and I could sense more poignancy from its very last shot. While its achievement is modest on the whole, the movie is distinctive and compelling enough to hold your attention, and I think you should give it a chance during your free time.

seeyouyesterday04

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Second Life (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): As she is running from herself

secondlife05

South Korean independent film “Second Life” is a sad, melancholic story about one young girl desperately running from herself via her constant lies. Although its heroine is not particularly likable to say the least, the movie observes her dishonest behaviors with considerable sensitivity and empathy, and you may come to feel a bit sorry for her although you still may not like her that much even in the end.

At the beginning, we meet Seon-hee (Jung Da-eun), and we see how this introverted high school girl tries to get closer to her classmate Jeong-mi (Park Soo-hyeon). After she hears that Jeong-mi wants to go to some popular pop concert but could not get a ticket to that concert, she searches the Internet for finding anyone willing to sell the ticket to her, and she also gets enough money from her rich mother, who is too occupied with her business to ask any question when Seon-hee simply says she needs money.

When Seon-hee tells Jeong-mi that she gets the ticket for Jeong-mi, she is not totally honest about how she got it, and she continues to lie just for making her look like a cool girl to hang around with. At one point, she buys a ring, and, when she later shows it to her classmates, she says she receives it from her college student boyfriend although she does not have any boyfriend.

However, not so surprisingly, Jeong-mi and other classmates saw through Seon-hee’s lies right from the beginning, and that leads to a painful scene where Seon-hee comes to learn of what Jeong-mi and her classmates really think of her. Naturally becoming quite spiteful, she attempts to have her revenge on Jeong-mi, but her following action inadvertently leads to a devastating consequence for not only her but also Jeong-mi, who turns out to have been hiding something very serious from her classmates.

secondlife02

Feeling lots of guilt over what subsequently happens to Jeong-mi, Seon-hee attempts to kill herself as shown from the opening scene of the movie, but then she changes her mind, and the second act of the movie shows us how she tries to get away from herself. Not long after her failed suicide attempt, she encounters a kind middle-aged lady who has run an orphanage in some rural area, and that lady does not ask much while generously allowing Seon-hee to live and work at her orphanage, but Seon-hee lies again. While not telling anything about her real identity, she presents herself as ‘Seul-ki’, and it does not take much time for Seon-hee to get more care and affection from that lady as she diligently takes care of those kids at the orphanage.

As days peacefully go by at the orphanage, Seon-hee feels happier than before, but then she is told that she needs to go to high school. Although she is understandably reluctant at first, she eventually takes the entrance examination, and then she is sent to a local high school where she comes to stay along with many other students including her roommate Bang-wool (Jung Yoo-yeon), who cordially greets Seon-hee during their first encounter and then quickly becomes her best friend.

While initially a bit awkward in this new environment, Seon-hee soon gets quite accustomed to this new school life of hers. She becomes more active and social than before, and she and Bang-wool get closer to each other as spending more time together. In addition, she studies hard as required, and she is later notified that she is going to receive an award as a model student.

However, there is always the subtle tension around the screen as we are constantly aware of Seon-hee’s continuing deception. While she looks quite content and comfortable with her fake identity, we know how easily her lies can be exposed at any minute – especially when Bang-wool tries to photograph her at one point later in the story.

secondlife06

In the end, there comes an inevitable moment as Seon-hee cannot hide herself anymore, and the movie subsequently delivers a quiet but harrowing scene which depends a lot on Jung Da-eun’s effective low-key performance. The camera only watches her from the behind, but Jung ably conveys her character’s emotional turmoil, and that is more than enough to make us have some expectation on what may come from this young talented actress during next several years.

While Jung is inarguably the heart and soul of the movie, the few substantial supporting performers in the film hold each own place well around Jung. While Park Soo-yeon is particularly good during one crucial dramatic scene, Jung Yoo-yeon is also fine as Seon-hee’s new friend, and Jeon Gook-hyang did an excellent job of bringing genuine warmness to her supporting character.

“Second Life” is the first feature film directed by director/writer Park Young-ju, and her competent handling of story and characters here this movie shows us that she is another new talented filmmaker to watch. Within its rather short running time, the movie feels both succinct and compact thanks to Park’s economic storytelling, and, as far as I remember, there is not any redundant moment throughout the film. Yes, it is certainly not something you can casually watch on Sunday afternoon, but its many sensitive moments will linger on your mind for a while after it is over, and you may agree that it is another notable South Korean film of this year.

secondlife03

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Juror 8 (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Eight Jurors and One Judge

juror806

South Korean film “Juror 8” is a familiar but enjoyable courtroom comedy drama which delivers its points well while also entertaining its audiences enough. Although it is instantly reminiscent of other similar films such as Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” (1957), the movie is still as a conventional but engaging product, and you will have a fairly good time with it even though you can see through its story and characters right from the beginning.

Loosely inspired by a courtroom case in 2008 which had jurymen for the first time in the South Korean legal history, the movie tells us a fictional story mainly revolving around a female judge and a bunch of different citizens selected as the jurors for the trial over which she is going to preside. Because the trial has drawn lots of public attention due to its unprecedented inclusion of civilians in the process, there have certainly been lots of expectation and pressure on Judge Kim Joon-gyeom (Moon So-ri), but she is not someone who can be easily daunted, and she and her two assistant judges promptly embark on selecting eight jurors from various civilian candidates handed to them.

In the end, eight civilians are selected as jurors, and the movie comes to pay more attention to Nam-woo (Park Hyung-sik), a young man who has been struggling to get a business breakthrough via the latest product concocted by him. When he is interviewed by Judge Kim and her two assistant judges, his answers to her several questions are not that exemplary, but he eventually becomes Juror No.8 probably because of his earnest attitude, and we soon see him joining other seven jurors for the upcoming trial.

juror801

When they finally enter the courtroom under the supervision of Judge Kim, it looks like they will just spend a few hours on reviewing the case, which seems to be a simple case of murder on the surface. A poor disabled man was arrested for murdering his old mother for getting social welfare money, and he has already pleaded guilty in addition to his following confession of murder, so all the jurors will have to do is deciding how much he deserves to be punished for his murder.

As the jurors examine the evidences and testimonies presented to the trial, most of them become more convinced that the defendant is guilty as charged, but Nam-woo is not so sure about that. After accidentally encountering the defendant at one point, he comes to have a feeling that the defendant might not commit the murder, and then he also comes to have a reasonable doubt when one of his fellow jurors points out a certain questionable aspect of the autopsy result of the victim’s body.

As Nam-woo becomes more persistent with his growing reasonable doubt, he naturally comes to clash with most of his fellow jurors like Henry Fonda did in “12 Angry Men”, and some of them are understandably quite annoyed as their deliberation process becomes far longer than expected because of him. In case of one juror who turns out to be a hotshot guy working for some powerful conglomerate CEO, he wants to get back to his work as soon as possible, so he tries to persuade Nam-woo as much as possible, but Nam-woo still sticks to his undecided position as suggesting more deliberation on the case. While he wants to be sure about whether the defendant can actually wield a tool presented as a murder weapon, he also wants to confirm the reliability of a crucial witness’s testimony, and that eventually leads to the prompt re-examination of the crime scene later in the story.

juror804

Never overlooking the serious situation surrounding its main characters, the movie occasionally tries some humorous moments to lighten the mood a bit. There is an amusing sequence where Nam-woo finds himself losing his way in the courtroom building and then gets an unexpected help from a building employee, and I also enjoyed how Judge Kim remains unflappable in front of small and big happenings under her resolute supervision.

During its second half, the movie comes to lose some of its narrative tension, and you will not be surprised much by what is revealed around its rather sappy finale, but director/writer Hong Seung-wan keeps maintaining the level of interest at least. Although many of the main characters in the film are broad archetypes, they are at least colorful enough to hold our attention, and we are often entertained as watching the dynamic interactions among its main cast members, who ably fill their respective roles as much as required. While Park Hyung-sik is adequately cast as a decent lad who simply cannot neglect his growing reasonable doubt, the seven other cast members surrounding him as Nam-woo’s fellow jurors are also equally solid on the whole, and Moon So-ri, who has been one of the most dependable South Korean actresses for more than 10 years, is commendable as ably bringing firm authority and determination to her character.

In conclusion, “Juror 8” does not bring anything particularly new to its genre territory, but it is still recommendable mainly thanks to its earnest storytelling as well as the diligent performances from its good performers. To be frank with you, I often felt an urge to revisit “12 Angry Men” during my viewing, but I came to discuss a bit with an acquaintance of mine who happened to watch the movie along with me yesterday morning, and I became more generous to it while overlooking its several shortcomings a bit. It is not exactly fresh, but it did its job as well as intended, so I will not complain for now.

juror803

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Suspiria (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): Self-indulgent but interesting anyway

suspiria01

Luca Guadagnino’s latest film “Suspiria”, which is the remake of Dario Argento’s classic horror film of the same name, boldly attempts to present its own style and substance. Although its attempt is not wholly successful, it is still an interesting variation which provides us a number of visually striking moments to be savored and appreciated, and you may come to forgive its stylish self-indulgence to some degree.

After the prologue scene involved with an old psychiatrist living in West Berlin, 1977, the movie shows us the following arrival of Susanna “Susie” Bannion (Dakota Johnson), a young American country girl who recently left her rural Mennonite hometown in Ohio for studying dance at some respectable dance company in West Berlin. Although nothing looks certain when she arrives at a big old-fashioned building belonging to that dance company, she instantly impresses its teachers including Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) thanks to her considerable raw talent, and she is soon allowed to stay along with those young company members including Sarah Simms (Mia Goth) in the company building.

Right from her first training day, Susie shows more of her talent in front of Madame Blanc and others, and she eventually finds herself selected as the new lead performer for the upcoming dance performance, but it seems something fishy is going on in the company. Before Susie arrived, one company member was suddenly disappeared, and Sarah later tells Susie more about the suspicious circumstance surrounding that company member’s disappearance. It looks like that company member knew something about Madame Blanc and other teachers, and it is highly possible that they were responsible for that company member’s disappearance.

suspiria03

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Madame Blanc and other teachers have been planning something insidious behind their back, because the movie does not hide that at all from us from the start. If you have been seen Argento’s 1977 film, you already know that they are in fact the secret members of a coven, and they do have a certain diabolical plan on Susie, but Madame Blanc seems to have some reservation as becoming more curious about Susie. Even after experiencing a rather uncanny thing at one point, Susie does not seem to be that disturbed much, and it looks like all she cares about is fulfilling a dream she has nurtured since her childhood years.

Meanwhile, the movie also pays considerable attention to a volatile social/political circumstance outside the company. As there are constant news reports associated with several key members of the Baader–Meinhof Group, the citizens of West Berlin are often unnerved by the possibility of another terror incident, and this moody atmosphere is further accentuated by the drab visual texture of the film. While the city mostly looks stark and barren under chilly and gloomy weather, the company building is usually shrouded in shadows and shades, and we come to sense more of something insidious lurking somewhere in the building.

Mainly through the aforementioned old psychiatrist, the screenplay by David Kajganich tries to bring some historical context to the story, but I am not so sure about whether that is as successful as intended. As alternating between the subplot involved with that psychiatrist and the main part associated with Susie and other figures in the dance company, the movie sometimes seems to lose its direction especially during its middle part, and I must confess that I felt often impatient while watching that part.

suspiria05

Nevertheless, the movie did not bore me at least. Although its running time (152 minutes) is rather too long and I think I will not mind trimming it around 20-30 minutes for a more efficient narrative, the movie steadily provides several nice moments of terror and horror, and it does not disappoint us as serving us with more excessive moments later in the story. There is a little naughty moment involved with two clueless detectives visiting the company building, and then there is a gloriously uninhibited dance performance scene as expected, and then there eventually comes a loony and bloody climactic sequence which would exalt Ken Russell for good reasons.

The main cast members of the movie are willing to throw themselves into whatever they are required to do, and some of them are commendable in their committed acting. While she has been mainly known for “Fifty Shades of Grey” (2015) and its two following sequels, Dakota Johnson is a good actress as shown from her wonderful supporting turn in Guadagnino’s previous film “A Bigger Splash” (2015), and she diligently carries the film as supported well by various notable performers including Mia Goth, Sylvie Testud, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Tilda Swinton, who surely has lots of fun with playing no less than three different characters in the film.

Overall, “Suspiria” does not exceed that wild, phantasmagoric energy of the original version, but it is still a curious case of remake on the whole, and I observed it with constant fascination while enjoying how willingly Guadagnino and his cast and crew members go all the way for those bold moments in the film. Yes, it is indeed self-indulgent to the core, but it is an admirable attempt on the whole, and it deserves its place right below the original version in my inconsequential opinion.

suspiria02

Posted in Movies | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Miss & Mrs. Cops (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): A good start for two female cops

MissandMrsCops01

At first, I did not have much expectation on South Korean comedy film “Miss & Mrs. Cops”, which did not look that fresh or interesting to me when I came across its trailer a few weeks ago. However, after hearing some good words from others including a South Korean critic I have trusted for many years, I eventually decided to give it a chance, and I am happy to report now that it is fairly entertaining with some fresh elements which are more than enough to compensate for a number of weak aspects in the film.

During the opening sequence, we see how things initially looked promising for a feisty female police detective named Mi-young (Ra Mi-ran). After willingly hurling herself into numerous cases including the one involved with a petty drug dealer who unwisely underestimated her right from the beginning, she received a commendation for her public service, and she also happened to encounter a guy whom she would marry later, but, alas, her life and career did not go that well during next several years. While her husband has been a pathetic bum still trying to pass a state law examination, she has been stuck in the public service department at a police station somewhere in Seoul, and, to make matters worse, it is possible that she will be fired due to the upcoming downsizing of her department.

And then there comes an incident which draws her attention. While she is going through another mundane day along with her young co-worker Jang-mi (Choi Soo-young) and Ji-hye (Lee Sung-kyung), a rookie detective who recently got assigned to work in Mi-young’s department due to her inadvertent trouble, a young woman comes to them, but then she hurriedly walks away for some reason. Sensing something wrong from her, Mi-young instantly follows after her, but then this young woman lets herself hit by a vehicle, and that certainly shocks Mi-young and her two colleagues.

MissandMrsCops04

Fortunately, this young woman does not die, but she remains unconscious at a hospital, and Mi-young and her two colleagues eventually come to learn of what happened to this young woman. A few days ago, she and her friend went to some popular nightclub, and they met a group of guys who seemed to be interested in having a fun time with them, but, when she happened to be left alone with these guys, she was drugged and then taken to some place where she was not only raped but also videotaped during this heinous act of crime. The video file in question is going to be released at a certain imminent point via a seedy website run by these guys, and it goes without saying that there will be no way to prevent the video file from spread all around the world once it is unleashed on the Internet.

Understandably becoming quite angry, Mi-young and Ji-hye try to bring more attention to the case, but, not so surprisingly, they only find themselves more frustrated and exasperated. While people at the department handling cybercrime are too busy to pay attention to the case, the other members of Ji-hye’s squad, who all happen to be male, do not give a damn about the case at all, so it becomes quite clear to Mi-young and Ji-hye that they must handle the cast for themselves. Although Mi-young’s direct boss does not allow anything outside their office work, they are willing to try as much as possible behind their back, and Jang-mi turns out to be a pretty helpful ally as fully revealing her particular set of skills involved with computer (Personally, I could not help but become delighted to know that she actually graduated from Korean Advanced Institute of Science Technology, which is incidentally my alma mater)

As Mi-young and Ji-hye delve further into the case, the movie steadily provides small and big funny moments which frequently induced laughs and chuckles from other audiences around me. While some of these moments are a little too broad for me, I will not deny that I was amused a lot by the humorous sequence unfolded around two foreign tattoo shops in Itaewon-dong, and I was also tickled by several scenes involved with Mi-young’s husband, who conveniently appears at right moments for his wife but, to our amusement, turns out to be not much of help on the whole.

MissandMrsCops03

Of course, the mood inevitably becomes more serious as Mi-young and Ji-hye approach closer to their targets, and the movie sometimes loses its balance as its comic moments clash with a number of darker moments later in the story. Its subject is quite timely considering a recent cast involved with a certain famous South Korean entertainer, and the movie sincerely makes a strong point on its subject via its two main characters, but I still think the movie could be a bit more thoughtful in handling its serious story elements.

Anyway, the movie is still engaging as keeping things rolling under the competent direction of director/writer Jung Da-won. Thanks to the spirited performances from Ra Mi-ran, Lee Sung-kyung, and Choi Soo-young, we come to root for their likable characters while also caring about what is being at stake in the story, and you will probably come to want to see their next story after the movie is over.

Although it is not entirely without flaws, “Miss & Mrs. Cops” deserves to be mentioned along with “Coin Locker Girl” (2015), “Miss Baek” (2018), and other recent South Korean movies driven by female characters. Sure, this is essentially your average police comedy action flick, but it is really nice to see that ladies can be as funny and tough as guys, and, considering its fairly solid box office success in South Korea, I sincerely hope for more good female movies to come after this.

MissandMrsCops02

Posted in Movies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment