Archive Page 2

01
Apr
09

Mark Your Calendar: Korean Film Festival DC 2009

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The Freer and the AFI have done it again! This year’s Korean Film Festival DC, which begins this Friday, brings an exciting and eclectic mix of new and classic Chungmuro cinema to the District, including a special focus on female directors that includes in-person appearances by Yim Soon-rye, presenting her films Forever the Moment and Waikiki Brothers. With enough content to split between two venues, there’s plenty to see, but I’m especially excited about a few in particular:

Crush and Blush, the debut film from writer/director Lee Kyung-mi (who took home prizes for both at the 29th Blue Dragon Awards), has already garnered comparisons to Almodovar and been called an “anti-romantic comedy.” In addition, it’s also the first film to be produced by Park Chan-wook, the director of Oldboy and the upcoming priest-turned-vampire(!) film Thirst.

Daytime Drinking, which could be described as a Korean take on Sideways, is director Noh Young-seok’s soju-soaked take on the buddy road movie. This one will see limited arthouse distribution in the US later this year (there’s even an English-language website and a trailer on Apple’s site), but you won’t see it free anywhere except the Freer.

Another debut feature, director Na Hong-Jin’s The Chaser (pictured above) took the number 2 spot at the Korean box office last year and swept the Blue Dragon Awards with four statues, including Best Picture and Best Director. A cop-turned-pimp played by Kim Yun-seok (Tazza: the High Rollers) must use the skills of his former profession when one of his girls is kidnapped by a serial killer. See this one before the now-obligatory American remake, which is already happening with screenwriter William Monahan and “remake king” Roy Lee. Monahan and Lee both worked on The Departed, Scorcese’s shot-for-shot remake of Hong Kong director Andrew Lau Wai-keung’s Infernal Affairs.

Full schedules are available online from the Freer and the AFI.

26
Mar
09

Review: Cars

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Everyone knows that Pixar can’t do people. From Toy Story’s Andy to Monsters, Inc.’s Boo to, well, all of The Incredibles, the animation studio’s humans tend to look much less impressive than its Potato Heads, Scarers, and Omnidroid 9000s. So the fact that Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter’s latest, Cars, takes place in a world populated entirely by automobiles is a very good sign. Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson, easing up on the stoner drawl) is the cocky, narcissistic rookie on the stock-car circuit who’s just begging to be taken down a notch or two. And soon enough, he finds himself marooned in the teeny-tiny town of Radiator Springs, a roadside hot spot during the heyday of Route 66 that now receives visits only from those who’ve taken a wrong turn off the interstate. Is the obnoxious city slicker going to be forced to reevaluate his priorities after some exposure to unspoiled country folk? You betcha—and those folk take the form of every stock character imaginable, albeit cheekily reduced to automotive stereotypes: George Carlin voices a VW bus as a burnt-out hippie, Cheech Marin is a Chicano lowrider, Larry the Cable Guy—who admirably restricts himself to just one “Git ’er done!”—is a dimwitted tow truck, and so on. Indeed, there are almost too many characters to keep track of, as if the filmmakers had been ordered to dream up more and more parts to attach celebrity voices to. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Lightning’s speed-talking Jewish agent, who Jeremy Piven turns into a carbon copy of his Ari Gold character from Entourage. Happily, though, the film’s big sad-music-and-slo-mo montage isn’t about a character at all, but about Route 66 itself. As a flashback to the pre-interstate roadway unfolds, kandy-kolored love interest Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt) laments, “It didn’t cut through the land—it moved with it.” And what a beautiful land it is, with rock formations resembling the fins of classic cars and vistas stretching into forever. Those visuals are, of course, extraordinary. But the real treat of this flawed yet charming film is watching Lightning’s transformation as he learns about friendship and compassion. It’s a change that doesn’t take place overnight and isn’t even close to complete by film’s end—which is a rarity in Hollywood movies, no matter how impressive the humans look.

26
Mar
09

First Look: Footage from Bong Joon-ho’s New Film Mother

The latest film from Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories of Murder, and one third of Tokyo!) looks like a return to smaller-scale drama after the runaway success of his 2006 blockbuster creature feature The Host (though that film also had plenty of human drama in between monster attacks). The title character in Mother (Kim Hye-ja) lives with her asocial and introverted adult son (K-Pop singer/actor Won Bin, making his return to the screen after fulfilling his mandatory military service), and when he’s wrongly scapegoated by the local police for a murder, she sets out alone to prove his innocence. This isn’t a proper trailer, but it does give a few glimpses from the film, along with director Bong speaking. I’m not sure exactly what he’s saying (Any Hangul speakers out there want to help me out with the translation?), but he was quoted in Variety last year, saying of the film:

I want to make the saddest yet most beautiful crime drama ever. At the center of this story is a small and weak mother who stands alone, a woman so determined that she can’t even stop herself.

This scoop courtesy of Wildgrounds, where you’ll also find two posters for the film.

25
Mar
09

Review: Word.Life: The Hip Hop Project

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Matt Ruskin and Scott K. Rosenberg’s film Word.Life shares its title with the 1994 debut by criminally underappreciated Brooklyn rapper OC. If unintentional, it seems highly appropriate, as OC’s album was a beacon of thought-provoking positivity amid the sea of gangsta posturing in the nineties, and The Hip Hop Project aims to do the same for the underserved kids who are it members. The film follows Chris “Kazi” Rolle, who went from an orphan in the Bahamas to a homeless hustler in New York, and who eventually heads up the nonprofit Hip Hop Project, designed to help disadvantaged youth express themselves through music. The program aims to give these kids a positive forum to vent their anger and focus on an attainable goal, in this case the writing, recording, and production of their own hip hop album. Following the program over a four year period, the film also spends individual time with these budding emcees, showing the hardships in their lives which come out in their lyrics. There’s Cannon, who has to deal with his mother’s multiple sclerosis and his own waning interest in completing high school. Or Princess, who still carries the emotional effects of the abortion she had as a young teenager, and whose father has recently been incarcerated. The kids’ talent is undeniable, though in the beginning their delivery is raw and their lyrics mostly ape the manufactured gangsterism they hear in the mainstream. But soon they learn to strike a balance between relevance and reality, kicking complex, socially aware rhymes that never sound preachy or pessimistic. While they may never top the charts, their honest portrayals of their lives ring a lot truer than the “money, hoes and clothes” ethos of mainstream rap.

17
Mar
09

Trailer: Park Chan-wook’s Vampire Film Thirst

Park Chan-wook, the director of Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and I’m a Cyborg But That’s Okay has a brand new film arriving in Korean theaters next month. Oh, and it’s… a vampire movie. I’m not here to analyze how or why the narrative theme of vampires has become so pervasive across the entire globe these past few years (30 Days of Night, True Blood, Twilight, Let the Right One In to name a few), but if Park wants to experiment with the vampire/horror genre I’m in. Personally, I felt I’m a Cyborg… was a slight letdown with its self-conscious quirkiness, but it looks like Park is playing to his strengths again with Thirst: dark subject matter, an eye for art direction, and stirring use of classical music. This one stars Park Chan-wook (The Host, Secret Sunshine), Kim Ok-bin (who became the star of a viral video on screen and in real life thanks to the “shaky dance” from Dasepo Naughty Girls), and Shin Ha-kyun (Mr Vengeance, Save the Green Planet!). No word on a US release, but that Universal logo at the beginning of the trailer looks promising. Thanks to Twitch for the scoop on this one.

UPDATE: Now with English subtitles.

16
Mar
09

Mark Your Calendar: Throne of Blood at JICC

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What more do you really need to know? This Wednesday the Japan Information and Culture Center is screening Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 film Throne of Blood, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth transposed to feudal Japan and starring Toshiro Mifune. The film is free, but seating is extremely limited so in order to secure your place you need to RSVP to the JICC, which you can do by clicking… here.

16
Mar
09

First Look: Stills from Paul King’s Bunny and the Bull

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Easy, Britcom fanboys… this isn’t a shot from series 4 of The Mighty Boosh. By the way, when IS series 4 coming?

Fans of British Comedy should recognize Paul King as the director of The Mighty Boosh, one of the most unabashedly weird, inventive and hilarious series to come out of old Blighty in quite some time. Now King is stepping up to the big screen with his feature debut Bunny and the Bull, which is intriguingly described as “a comedy road movie set entirely in a flat.” The film stars Simon Farnaby (aka “Harold Boom” from the Boosh) and Edward Hogg, but features cameos from Boosh stars Noel Fielding (pictured above) and Julian Barratt as well as the ubiquitous Richard Ayoade. Quiet Earth has the full set of stills over here, and while there’s no official UK release date yet, you can look for the film to play in US theaters starting, uh… actually, you should probably just get yourself a region-free DVD player.