Shoplifters (2018) ☆☆☆1/2 (3.5/4): As they live as a family

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Gentle and sensitive in its thoughtful storytelling, Japanese film “Shoplifters” is another masterful work from Hirokazu Kore-eda, one of the most humane filmmakers in our time. Calmly observing its main characters’ shabby but happy daily life, the movie generates numerous small but moving moments of understanding and empathy, and we are touched more as we come to know more about them later in the story.

The movie opens with a petty act of crime committed by Osamu (Lily Franky) and a young boy named Shota (Kairi Jō). They are in a supermarket, and we see Shota stealing several goods while Osamu watches out for any possibility of getting caught. Once their job is done, they happily go back to the shabby, modest residence of Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), an old lady who has lived with them and Osamu’s spouse Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) and an adolescent girl named Aki (Mayu Matsuoka).

On the way to their home, Osamu and Shota spot a little young girl left outside her nearby residence due to her mother’s domestic problem. Seeing that the girl needs some help and comfort, Osamu and Shota come to bring the girl to their residence, and Hatsue and the others in the residence do not mind at all sharing their warm dinner with her.

At first, the girl, named Yuri (Miyu Sasaki), is supposed to stay just for one night and then sent back to her home on the next day, but she come to stay in Hatsue’s residence, and Hatsue and the others in her residence do not object to that because Yuri does not seem to be willing to go back to her home. At one point, they notice scars on Yuri’s body, and that is more than enough for us to discern that she was not so happy at her home.

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While Yuri comes to stay in Hatsue’s residence longer than expected, we watch how Hatsue and the others in her residence respectively go through their daily life. Osamu has worked as a part-time worker at a construction site, but then he happens to get injured during his working time, so he cannot work outside for a while as depending on Nobuyo to some degree. She has worked in a laundry factory, and there is a brief amusing scene which shows that she does not mind stealing just like her spouse.

In case of Aki, she has earned her money at a place where she and other girls around her age casually sell their erotic images. Never sensationalizing what Aki and her colleagues do for their customers, the movie later gives us a nice moment of intimacy between Aki and a quiet young man who happens to be her latest customer. Although they do not talk much and Aki sticks to her rules, we sense something mutual being shared between them as they quietly spend their short private time together.

We also get to know a bit about the private life of Hatsue. While receiving the monthly annuity from her diseased ex-husband, she routinely visits the son from her ex-husband’s second marriage and his wife mainly for getting some extra money, and I and other audiences around me had some laughs as watching her courteously accepting the money from him.

Meanwhile, Shota gets closer to Juri as functioning as an older brother to her. He and Osamu show her how to steal things, and Juri soon comes to participate in their criminal activities. There is a little funny scene where they steal a couple of fishing rods, and there is also a small touching scene where Shota and Juri encounter an unexpected act of kindness.

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As Juri and the other main characters in the story continue to stay together, they look like a real family, and they even go to a beach together during one sunny summer day, but the movie never lets us overlook a big problem remaining in their circumstance. Not long after Juri began to stay in Hatsue’s residence, Hatsue and the others in her residence comes across a TV news report on Juri’s ‘disappearance’, and they all come to see that they are now in a very serious circumstance. Maybe they should send Juri back right now, but then they will surely be arrested for ‘kidnapping’ her.

Of course, the situation eventually becomes more serious for them after a couple of certain incidents happen later in the story, but the movie sticks to its low-key mood as before, and that leads to several quiet but powerful moments to remember. In the end, we come to realize how much the main characters have stuck together with love and care, and that is why the last scene of the movie feels particularly poignant.

Under Kore-eda’s deft direction, the main performers in the film give natural nuanced performances. While Lily Franky, who was wonderful in Kore-eda’s previous film “Like Father, Like Son” (2013), and Kiki Kirin, who appeared in Kore-eda’s several notable works including “After the Storm” (2016), are the most notable ones in the bunch, Sakura Ando and Mayu Matsuoka are also solid in their respective roles, and the same thing can be said about Kairi Jō and Mayu Matsuoka, who are effortless in their unadulterated acting.

Since he made his first feature film “Maborosi” (1995), Kore-eda has never disappointed us during last 23 years except a few minor missteps like “The Third Murder” (2017), and “Shoplifters”, which received the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival in this May, shows him at the top of his mastery. After making “After the Storm”, he said he considered having some rest, but then he kept going on instead, and I certainly hope that he will continue to impress and touch us a lot as before.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): Cruise in another impossible mission

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“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” did its job as spectacularly and exhilaratingly as we can expect from it. Again, the movie puts its hero into a series of breathtaking action sequences as he and his few trusted colleagues try to accomplish another impossible mission, and it is really fun to watch how deftly it operates within its established plot formula. Although a number of plot turns in the movie will probably not surprise you much if you have seen the previous films, the movie keeps finding ways to amuse and excite us, and the result is another solid entry in a franchise which has been maintained pretty well during last 22 years.

The movie begins with the latest mission of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF (Impossible Missions Force) team members Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benjamin “Benji” Dunn (Simon Pegg). They must prevent a very dangerous terrorist organization from getting plutonium and then making nuclear bombs, but then their operation goes wrong at the last minute, and the plutonium is snatched away from them in the end.

Fortunately, there later comes another chance to stop their opponent, but Hunt and his team face a little problem due to Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett), the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She is not so pleased about Hunt and his team’s failure, so she has one of her agents included in Hunt’s team despite the protest from Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), Sloane’s predecessor who has been the new IMF Secretary since what happened in “Mission: Impossible – the Rogue Nation” (2015).

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The agent in question is August Walker (Henry Cavill), and Hunt does not like much him for an understandable reason, but he agrees to work along with Walker anyway because he must get the mission accomplished as soon as possible. They soon get on a military cargo airplane together, and then they jump from the airplane while it is quite high above a certain spot in Paris, where they are going to approach to a powerful black market arms dealer who may lead them to that stolen plutonium.

However, not so surprisingly, the situation becomes very complicated for Hunt and his team members. When Hunt finally succeeds in approaching to the arms dealer despite a few setbacks, the arms dealer demands him to accomplish a mission he is not so eager to accept. Furthermore, he comes across Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), a former MI6 agent who previously worked with Hunt in “Mission: Impossible – the Rogue Nation” and turns out to have her own small mission to be accomplished.

What follows after that narrative point is several big action sequences, and they are effectively handled under director/writer Christopher McQuarrie’s competent direction. As shown from “Mission: Impossible – the Rogue Nation”, McQuarrie is a skillful filmmaker who knows how to make good action scenes, and that is particularly exemplified well by a heart-pounding action sequence unfolded on streets and alleys of Paris. Lots of things rapidly happen on the screen during this sequence, but it is never confusing for us at all thanks to the brisk, efficient editing by Eddie Hamilton, and the movie ably dials up and down its level of tension while never overlooking what is being at stake for Hunt and his team members.

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And Tom Cruise shows us again that he is one of the most dependable action movie stars in our time. Although he recently had his 56th birthday, he willingly hurls himself into realistic physical actions as usual, and his diligent effort in the film is more than enough for us to forgive his recent disastrous turn in “The Mummy” (2017). He is surely back in his element here in this film, and, as far as I can see from the movie, it looks like he will be able to make one or two more sequels in the future.

Cruise is also supported well by the other performers surrounding him. While Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are reliable as before, Rebecca Ferguson, who was simply fantastic in “Mission: Impossible – the Rogue Nation”, adds a touch of class to the movie, and Henry Cavill, Alec Baldwin, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Sean Harris, and Michelle Monaghan function well in their respective supporting roles.

As entertained a lot by “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”, I was reminded again of how the franchise has steadily improved itself during last 22 years. When the first film came out, it just looked like another successful film in Cruise’s career, but then the franchise gradually solidifies itself with two following sequels, and then it surprised us with the bigger success of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (2011) and “Mission: Impossible – the Rogue Nation”, which is the best of the bunch in my insignificant opinion.

Mainly because I gave “Mission: Impossible – the Rogue Nation” only three stars and its accomplishment is not surpassed by “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”, so I have no choice but to give the latter three stars, but I must emphasize to you all that, so far, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is the best action film of this summer season, and I tell you one little thing about how I watched the movie today. When I walked into a screening room right before the movie began, I was warned that the air conditioner is broken, but I soon came to forget that while being enthralled along with many other audiences around me. Folks, that is what a good blockbuster film can do.

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Illang: The Wolf Brigade (2018) ☆☆(2/4): Heavy is the body that wears the armour

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Watching South Korean film “Illang: the Wolf Brigade” was a grim and ponderous experience. Although there are a number of well-made action sequences, the movie does not provide enough fun and interest to hold my attention despite its supposedly intriguing story premise, and I only came to observe how it solemnly trudges along its convoluted plot, about which I did not care much as feeling more confused and distant to what was shown on the screen.

During its prologue part, the movie gives us a brief explanation of its near-future background. In 2024, South and North Korea decided to be unified for their mutual political benefit and safety, so they have gone through the preparation stage for their unification for next 5 years, but this process has been riddled with problems from both inside and outside. While it is not so welcomed by several powerful countries including US and China, it is also strongly opposed by many South Koreans, and this local anti-unification movement leads to the formation of a terrorist group called “Sect”.

To fight against this terrorist group which seems quite willing to do anything for its political purpose, the South Korean police comes to launch a special unit known as Wolf Brigade. While they look heavy and ponderous in their metallic armour which may remind you of those stormtroopers in Star Wars movies, these special unit soldiers can efficiently and ruthlessly eliminate targets as ordered, and they do not even hesitate at all even when the targets to be eliminated happen to be a group of young school girls.

After that shocking moment, the movie moves forward to 5 years later. While the unification process is being near the end, the South Korean society remains unstable as before, and we see the South Korean police trying to handle another big demonstration held in the middle of Seoul. Once the situation becomes far more violent due to several Sect members, Wolf Brigade is brought into the scene, and the situation soon comes to the end as the unit members systemically wipe out a bunch of Sect members.

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During that operation, Im Joong-kyung (Gang Dong-won), one of the unit members, happens to kill a girl who tries to detonate a bomb she is carrying. Although this is certainly not his first killing, it looks like something inside him is shaken by this incident, and he does not hesitate when his former colleague Han Sang-woo (Kim Mu-yeol), who has been the deputy head of the public security department since he left the unit, suggests that he should meet the older sister of that dead girl.

Her name is Lee Yoon-hee (Han Hyo-joo), and she does not show much anger or sorrow over her sister’s death because, well, life has already been hard for her since her sister joined Sect. As spending more time with Yoon-hee, Joong-kyung comes to know more about her and her dead sister, and we get a rather blatantly symbolic scene where she shows more of her feelings to him via the variation of a certain well-known fairy tale which is involved with a big bad wolf.

Meanwhile, the circumstance surrounding Joong-kyung and Yoon-hee turns out to be more complicated than it seems on the surface. While the head of the public security department wants to undermine Wolf Brigade by any means necessary, the chief of Wolf Brigade tries to protect his unit as much as he can, and it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Joong-kyung and Yoon-hee later find themselves in a very serious danger because of this growing conflict between Wolf Brigade and the public security department.

As Joong-kyung and Yoon-hee struggle to survive this perilous circumstance of theirs, the movie gives us several technically impressive moments, and its technical crew members deserve some praises for their good efforts. I like a relentless action sequence unfolded in and around the Namsan Tower in Seoul, and I also appreciated the palpably gloomy atmosphere surrounding the characters in the film, which is effectively established from the start thanks to cinematographer Lee Mo-gae.

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However, the movie failed to engage me mainly due to its deficient narrative and weak characterization. It is often too murky and disorienting in its uneven narrative, and most of its characters are more or less than colorless plot elements to be moved along its plot. In addition, it fails to generate any tangible sense of emotional connection between Joong-kyung and Yoon-hee, and that is why its melodramatic ending does not work at all.

Kang Dong-won surely tries very hard in his decidedly stoic performance, but, alas, his character is flat and uninteresting from the beginning, and there is not much to do for him except looking intense and ambiguous. As a result, we cannot feel much of his presence when he later goes into a full action mode while fully wearing that metallic armour, and it is really monotonous to watch him mechanically eliminating his numerous opponents one by one during that sequence.

As another main part of the movie, Han Hyo-joo, who was fantastic as the strong heroine of “Cold Eyes” (2013), is woefully under-utilized here, and the same thing can be said about other notable supporting performers in the film. While Kim Mu-yeol looks as treacherous as required, Jung Woo-sung looks as brooding as demanded, and Han Ye-ri manages to bring some spirit and personality to her small supporting role.

In conclusion, “Illang: the Wolf Brigade” is a major letdown compared to director Kim Ji-woon’s notable works such as “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003), “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” (2008), and “The Age of Shadows” (2016). I was quite disappointed as not getting much fun during my viewing, and I must confess that the movie was quickly faded away from my mind as I subsequently watched “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018), which is a far better action film in my trivial opinion.

Oh, by the way, the movie is in fact a live-action adaptation of Mamoru Oshii’s acclaimed animated film “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade” (1999). I have not watched Oshii’s animated film yet, but now I am very willing to check it out for comparison, and I will probably get more fun from it considering how animated films are usually more stylish and atmospheric than live action films. Maybe you should watch it instead of its mediocre live-action movie version.

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The Tale (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): How differently she remembers

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Memory can be deceptive at times, and HBO film “The Tale” explorers that tricky aspect through its heroine’s painful emotional journey into her past. As she comes to realize how unreliable her memories are, she comes to see more of what she has unconsciously overlooked for many years, and the movie is alternatively sensitive and disturbing in its gradual revelation of her hidden psychological scar which turns out to be a lot more devastating than expected.

As stated at its beginning, the movie is based on the real-life story of director/writer Jennifer Fox, who is played by Laura Dern in the film. As shown from the opening scene of the movie, Fox is a documentarian who is also a college professor teaching documentary filmmaking, and she is working on her latest project when her mother Nadine (Ellen Burnstyn) suddenly calls her for a very important personal matter. Nadine recently discovered a short story which was written by her daughter many years ago, and she was quite upset because of what is implied in that short story.

Fox is rather baffled by her mother’s reaction, because, to her, the short story in question is just the innocent fictional version of her past relationship with two adults who were quite nice and generous to her. When she was 13, Fox was sent to a summer ranch camp run by “Mrs. G” (Elizabeth Debicki), and this charismatic married woman introduced Fox and other girls in her summer ranch camp to Bill Allens (Jason Ritter), a handsome divorced guy who turned out to be Mrs. G’s secret lover. As far as Fox can remember, she was free and happy under the guidance of these two adults, and she remained very close to them even after that summer was over.

Through one flashback scene, the movie shows us how much young Fox, played by Jessica Sarah Flaum at this point, enjoyed that summertime in Mrs. G’s ranch. Looking more confident than the other girls in the ranch, Fox was Mrs. G’s favorite student, and Mrs. G was willing to show many things including how to make a perfect apple pie.

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However, this supposedly pleasant memory begins to crack as Fox looks closer into her past. When she meets a woman who was one of the girls in the ranch during that time, the woman remembers many things differently, and she points out to Fox that Fox was far less confident than other girls in the ranch. When she later checks old photographs along with her mother, Fox is surprised to discover that her 13-year-old self looks quite younger than she remembers, and she naturally comes to have lots of doubts on her memory.

While trying to locate Mrs. G and Allens, Fox delves further into the remains of her past, and her search for the truth is intercut with the following series of flashback scenes. Played by Isabelle Nélisse from this point, young Fox surely looks younger in her immature status, and her relationship with Mrs. G and Allens looks quite different to us as a result. It is very clear that these two adults manipulated and then exploited young Fox, and there later comes a very uncomfortable scene where Allens approaches too close to young Fox while they happen to be together alone in his house. The movie thankfully handles this unpleasant moment with considerable restraint, and I was certainly relieved to learn later that they used a body double when this scene was shot.

As reflected by the opening sentence of her short story, this inappropriate relationship has been regarded as something romantic and beautiful in Fox’s viewpoint, but then she comes to realize how she is not so different from child sexual abuse victims. Like many of them, she has been in the denial of how she was abused and exploited, and that short story of hers was her own way of surviving those traumatizing moments from her relationship with Allens and Mrs. G.

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Although it sometimes feels disorienting in its unconventional storytelling approach, the movie is firmly held well together by two strong performances at its center. Dern, whose acting career is going through another peak after her Oscar-nominated supporting turn in “Wild” (2014), is terrific as a woman who gradually awakens to the disturbing aspect of her unforgettable adolescent experience, and she ably conveys to us her character’s emotional state even when she does not say much. Nélisse, a young Canadian actress who was wonderful in Oscar-nominated film “Monsieur Lazhar” (2011), is believable as the other half of the movie, and she is particularly good when her character finally decides that enough is enough and then does what she should have done earlier.

The supporting performers in the movie are solid on the whole. While Elizabeth Debicki, who has been more prominent since her supporting turn in “The Great Gatsby” (2013), is effective in her increasingly unlikable role, Frances Conroy is equally good as older Mrs. G., and Jason Ritter is suitably despicable with his jolly façade. As Fox’s regretting mother, Ellen Burstyn has a small poignant moment with Dern when their characters happen to have an honest private conversation between them, and Common and late John Heard fill their respective functional roles as required.

“The Tale” is not entirely without weak aspects, and it stumbles a little during the finale, but it is still an interesting personal drama to be admired and appreciated. Yes, it is surely not easy to watch at times due to its subject, but there are several emotionally powerful moments including its very last shot, and I assure you that they will linger on your mind for a long time after the movie is over.

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Hannah (2017) ☆☆(2/4): Drab, dreary, and hollow

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It took some time for me to appreciate the distinctive presence of Charlotte Rampling. As far as I remember, I noticed her for the first time through her supporting turn in “Angel Heart” (1987), and then I came to see more of her considerable talent through several notable films including “The Night Porter” (1974), “Farewell, My Lovely” (1975), and “The Verdict” (1982). As getting gracefully older with her edgy beauty and charisma, she became all the more interesting than before, and I certainly enjoyed watching her in a number of recent notable works such as “Never Let Me Go” (2010), “Melancholia” (2011), and “45 Years” (2015), for which she was belatedly nominated for Best Actress Oscar.

In case of “Hannah”, for which she won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival in last year, Rampling did everything she was demanded to do, and she deserves praises for her committed performance which reminds us again of what a compelling actress she is, but, unfortunately, the movie is no more than a mere showcase of her talent. Decidedly drab and dreary in its austere storytelling approach, the movie does not provide much substance in terms of story and characters, and even Rampling’s admirable effort cannot compensate much for its frustratingly hollow impression.

In the movie, Rampling plays an old married woman named Hannah, and the first half of the movie shows us how her melancholic daily life becomes more desolate after her husband is incarcerated in a prison for a crime which is seldom discussed in the film. During their meeting in the prison, her husband says he is not guilty, but there later comes a moment when Hannah happens to discover a certain envelope hidden in their apartment. The movie does not show or tell us at all what is in the envelope, but it seems the envelope contains an incriminating evidence against her husband, so Hannah gets rid of the envelope once she checks its content.

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Living only with a pet dog in her apartment, Hannah feels increasingly lonely and isolated, and she is sometimes disturbed by some of her neighbors in the apartment building. At one point, some woman knocks on the front door of the apartment, and that woman seems to want a serious conversation with Hannah, but the movie never clarifies that woman’s motive while merely implying that it is involved with the crime of Hannah’s husband. When Hannah notices that water is leaking from the ceiling, she naturally goes up to the apartment right above hers, but she only comes to discover a rather confusing and unpleasant situation, and you will be probably as baffled as I was during my viewing.

Meanwhile, she continues to work as usual in a slick modern house belonging to an affluent middle-class family. We see her cleaning the house, and we also come to gather that she is close to a young blind kid living in the house, though the movie never lets us have any clear understanding of her relationship with that kid. There is actually a small intimate scene where she comforts him through telling a story, but, to our frustration, that is all for us to observe.

In addition, Hannah attends an acting class along with several other people, and you may get little amusement from their teacher’s rather unconventional teaching method. It looks like they are practicing with some play, but the movie does not delve much into what they are handling. We often see Hannah and other students practicing together, but we never get any clear idea of what they are doing, and this is often quite frustrating to watch although we are later served with a brief but nice scene where Hannah demonstrates her good physical acting in front of others.

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Around the midpoint of the movie, we get to know a bit about Hannah’s estranged relationship with her son and her son’s family. When her grandson’s birthday comes, Hannah goes to her son’s house with a cake and a present, but her son does not welcome her much for a reason revealed later in the movie, and he also prevents from her entering his house. After this painful moment, the movie cuts to a scene which shows Hannah quite saddened and devastated by her son’s rejection, and Rampling deftly handles her character’s irrepressible emotions in front of the camera.

All these and other elements in the movie could add up to something powerful enough to engage us, but the screenplay by director Andrea Pallaoro and his co-writer Orlando Tirado adamantly sticks to its barebone narrative without giving us anything to hold on. Hannah and other substantial characters in the film are never fully developed as human characters to interest us, and the movie does not even try to generate enough narrative momentum. As a result, we come to observe Hannah’s ongoing predicament from the distance without much care, and we accordingly become more aware of Rampling’s acting instead.

Overall, “Hannah” is one of the most disappointing movie experiences I had during this year, but it is not a total dud at least for a few reasons including Rampling’s performance, which is its saving grace in my inconsequential opinion. As shown from its smooth camera work and considerate scene composition, the technical aspects of the movie are commendable on the whole, and they certainly show that Pallaoro is a talented filmmaker. I can only hope that he will soon move onto something better than this bland misfire.

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Paterno (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): His rapid fall from grace

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Joe Paterno’s rapid fall from grace during his final year can be regarded as a cautionary tale about how one’s achievements of lifetime can be so quickly tarnished and ruined by a single scandal. He dedicated himself to his profession for more than 60 years as establishing his legendary status, but, alas, everything fell down as he suddenly found himself getting associated with a shocking case of child sex abuse, and his legacy has been always remembered along with that heinous crime.

Closely looking into what happened around Paterno during that eventful week of November 2011, HBO movie “Paterno” tries to give us some glimpses into his state of mind during that period, and the result is a modest but fascinating drama with several good things to admire. Although it is rather ambiguous about how much Paterno was responsible for the cover-up of many incidents of child sex abuse which were committed by one of his close associates, the movie is still engaging as intensely focusing on the mounting tension and pressure on Paterno and others around him, and it is also anchored well by the solid lead performance from one of the great actors in our time.

Paterno in the film is played by Al Pacino, and the movie opens with Paterno going through a medical examination for his serious health condition. As he is being examined by an MRI machine, his mind goes back to when he and many others around him were virtually on the top of the world on October 29th, 2011. On that day, he won his 409th game as the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions football team, and this record-breaking victory was certainly another moment of glory to be added to the long, illustrious sports career of this aging but feisty coach who was soon going to have his 85th birthday.

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However, there was a very big trouble coming to not only him and his team but also the Penn State University. Not long after a local newspaper reporter named Sara Ganim (Riley Keough) wrote an article on the allegation of child sex abuses committed by Jerry Sandusky, who served as an assistant for Paternto for 30 years before his retirement in 1999 and had remained closely associated with Paterno and the Penn State University since that. Although her article did not draw much public attention at first when it came out, it eventually led to the grand jury investigation of this allegation, and the scandal subsequently broke out a few days later as Sandusky was officially indicted for his alleged crime.

The main part of the movie revolves around how the situation became worse for Paterno and his family day by day after that point. While a bunch of reporters are eagerly waiting outside his residence for any comment from him or his family, his family try to find any possible way for distancing the family from the scandal, but Paterno chooses to stick to what he has recently been occupied with: his team’s upcoming game with the Nebraska State University team. To him, the scandal seems to be a minor trouble which he and his team and family can endure, and it is pretty clear to us that he does not understand much how big and serious this scandal is going to be.

As the media focuses more and more on whether Paterno was aware of Sandusky’s crime from the beginning, Paterno’s family comes to hire a consultant from a crisis management firm, but the consultant flatly delivers the bad news to Paterno. There is no other way out for Paterno except his immediate resignation, and the Penn State University will fire him anyway for saving its reputation even if he does not do that. While certainly feeling exasperated, Paternto eventually agrees to leave his position after the end of the ongoing season, but then the Penn State University fires him immediately, and this leads to what will be remembered as one of the most shameful moments in the history of the Penn State University.

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Meanwhile, the movie also pays considerable attention to Ganim’s continuing work on the scandal. She often meets one of Sandusky’s early victims and the victim’s mother, and she comes to learn more about how Sandusky’s crime has been neglected and covered up for many years. The victim and his mother tried as much as they could for exposing Sandusky’s crime, but that led to more pain and torment for them, and that will remind you of those many sexual abuse victims who were unjustly disregarded before the recent #MeToo movement.

As more of Sandusky’s crime is exposed in public, Paterno becomes a more distant figure to us due to his apparent obliviousness to the consequence of his serious negligence, but Pacino’s nuance acting still holds our attention. Dialing down his usual intense presence, Pacino, who previously collaborated with director Barry Levinson in another HBO film “You Don’t Know Jack” (2010), is fabulous as subtly suggesting whatever is being churned inside his character’s mind, and he is also supported well by good supporting performers including Riley Keough and Kathy Baker, who holds her own small place as Paterno’s distraught wife.

Although it does not illuminate anything new about Paterno or the Penn State University child sex abuse scandal, “Paterno” is still worthwhile to watch, and Pacino shows here that he can still be as compelling as before. Although he is approaching to 80 now, this great actor continues to work as usual even at this point, and I certainly hope that he will soon get another nice opportunity like “Paterno”.

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Yi Yi (2000) ☆☆☆1/2 (3.5/4): As they live day by day

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Edward Yang’s last film “Yi Yi”, which was recently released in South Korean movie theaters, is a calm, thoughtful meditation on life. Although it surely demands considerable patience from you considering its long running time (173 minutes) and leisurely narrative pacing, it is quite rewarding on the whole thanks to its small episodic human moments from its main characters, and you will come to reflect more on life and how we go through it day by day.

The movie mainly revolves around a middle-aged man named NJ (Wu Nien-jen) and his two family members: his adolescent daughter Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee) and his young son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang). During the opening scene, they and other family members including NJ’s wife and mother-in-law are attending the wedding ceremony of his brother-in-law, and we get a comical moment when a woman appears and then becomes quite emotional in front of the groom’s mother. It turns out that NJ’s brother-in-law left his girlfriend to marry a woman who got pregnant because of him, and it looks like his former girlfriend still feels emotionally attached to him (“It should have been me marrying your son today!”).

Not long after that, another incident happens. When NJ and his wife and children come back from the wedding banquet, they find that his mother-in-law went into a comatose state while she was left alone in their apartment. After spending several days in a local hospital, his mother-in-law is sent back to their apartment while still being comatose, and there is nothing they can do except taking care of her as waiting for her recovery.

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The movie calmly observes how each family member in the apartment tries to deal with this changed circumstance. While NJ maintains his phlegmatic attitude as usual, his wife cannot help but regretful as helplessly watching her mother on the bed and then glumly looking back on her life, and there is a sad, bitter moment when she confides to her husband how much she has been feeling empty since her mother’s sudden illness. In the end, she comes to decide to have her own private time at a Buddhist temple outside the city, and that means NJ has to take care of the household for a while instead of her.

In the meantime, NJ also has to deal with two other matters. While he was attending the wedding banquet, he happened to encounter a woman who was his girlfriend when they were young, and he begins to wonder what would have happened in his life if he had made a different choice during that time. Both of them have respectively lived a fairly good life since their separation, but they find themselves being willing to spend time together when they happen to get a chance for that later in the story. As they talk more with each other, something seems to be revived between them, but they are also reminded of why they ended their relationship, and we get a small poignant moment when NJ reminds her that things would have turned out to be the same even if he had acted differently.

At NJ’s workplace, the situation is not particularly good for everyone including him, and he is asked to handle a very important deal with a prominent Japanese business man. Although he is not so eager to do that, he and the Japanese businessman in question sense honesty and decency from each other right from when they meet, and there is a lovely moment when the Japanese businessman demonstrates his musical ability in front NJ and others at a nightclub.

Meanwhile, Ting-Ting finds herself in a rather tricky circumstance due to a girl living right next to her apartment. The girl, who is living with her single mother, has been in a relationship with some boy, but she eventually becomes distant from him for some unknown reason, and then the boy becomes quite close to Ting-Ting. At one point, he and Ting-Ting attempt to move onto the next step, but she sees that what they are going to do is not right, so they come to step away from each other.

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In case of Yang-Yang, he is not aware much of his grandmother’s illness, but he has his own matter to deal with. At his elementary school, he is sometimes bullied by other kids, but he soon comes to find something he can enthusiastically focus on. When his father gives him a camera to play with, he becomes fascinated with what he can possibly capture with it. At first, he tries to photograph a mosquito, and then he tries to photograph the backside of several people including his father because, as reflected by his conversation scene with his father, he comes to feel the need to show what others cannot see.

So far, I have only described a part of what I observed from the movie, and I can only tell you how effortlessly it presents its subjects under Yang’s masterful direction. Nothing is particularly emphasized, but we are slowly drawn to the lives of its main characters thanks to its vivid sense of life felt from the screen, and I especially appreciate its frequent utilization of reflections on windows for subtle dramatic impacts.

On the whole, “Yi Yi”, which won the Best Director Award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, is a sublime piece of work I am willing to watch again for more appreciation. I am not that sure about whether it is as great as Yang’s unforgettable masterpiece “A Brighter Summer Day” (1991), but this is still a very good film, and I am certainly glad that I could watch this admirable film on a big screen today.

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