Not to be confused with the movie of the same name by Darren Oronofsky … this 2009 drama is by Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, Oscar winner of Parasite fame. This tells the story of over-protective ‘Mother’ who goes out of her way to prove her simple-minded son’s innocence after he’s accused of murder.
This surprised me. I had picked up the Bong Joon-ho collection a while back after loving Parasite and had been slowly working my way through the movies. This hadn’t exactly caught my eye but I thought I’d give it a go. With a demanding and enjoyable lead performance from actress Kim Hye-ja this proved an intriguing mystery. Joon-On’s direction is creative, subtlety stylish and often gorgeous. The movie delivers several twists and turns in the plot and I was kept transfixed throughout. It’s not exactly a thriller, but more a quirky drama with smatterings of sex & violence along with a great deal of personality.
Support from Won Bin as the simple-minded son is also very good as is much of the rest of the cast. The ending did perhaps deliver a twist too far, leaving me slightly scratching my head but overall I’d say this is up there with the best of Korean cinema. Well worth checking out.
I was quite hyped going into this. This tells the story of Evelyn, a middle aged Chinese woman who runs a laundromat with her husband and father, who is in spiralling debt and being leaned on by the local IRS. However during one meeting to work out her finances, another version of her husband contacts her and tells her he’s from another universe, explaining that there are many more multiverses where Evelyn’s life turned out differently and that he needs her to help him stop a looming threat.
We’re probably accustomed to the concept of the multiverse with movies like Doctor Strange and Spider-Man No Way Home. However this movie takes that idea to the extreme, creating a chaotic and quite bonkers experience. Hong Kong Cinema veteran Michelle Yeoh delivers a commendably demanding performance, that although her grasp of English isn’t great, physically she’s put through the ringer in many dazzling and intricately edited sequences. With all the multiverse stuff the movie jumps rapidly from place to place as Evelyn adopts various abilities, including Kung Fu. The various action scenes are imaginative, well choreographed and often hilarious. The ideas here clearly come from a pretty out-there mind as we get fights with dildos, and at one stage a Chihuahua used like a whip! Jamie Lee Curtis proves memorable as the IRS lady, and movie legend James Hong also makes an extended appearance.
I did feel this got a bit much after a while. The concept means that the possibilities are endless but doesn’t mean a movie need go that far. Also why things were happening got a bit muddled – at times it’s simply odd for the sake of being odd (a multiverse with everyone with hotdogs for fingers!). I was entertained though, just maybe a little restraint would have gone a long way.
Generally, you can’t go wrong with a movie starring veteran action star Sammo Hung. He grew up with Jackie Chan, and although he has remained in Chan’s shadow, mostly due to not making his name in America – his movies and his Kung fu skills are clearly on the same level. This 1990 buddy cop movie has never had much fanfare outside its native Hong Kong, and after watching it … I’m surprised.
This is top-drawer Sammo Hung with some fun comedy and several quality Kung Fu fights. The plot is rather none-sensical though, serving more as an excuse from Hung and Karl Mak’s often funny squabbling banter. Karl Mak is comes across a tad misogynistic but still entertains, and proves a capable fighter in his own right. However as a vehicle for Hung, this showcases his comedy skills equally with his fighting, this time doing a spot-on Bruce Lee impression throughout – which I’d have liked a bit of explanation for, but it’s never explored.
Direction by kung Fu veteran Lau Kar-wing is decent with the fights well framed and delivered with often clever camera work (especially during the climactic warehouse scene). I’d say if you enjoy Hong Kong action cinema, this is one of the more immediate fun ones, with the action spread throughout the movie (not just at the end) with entertaining characters and decent comedy. Just a shame about that er… plot.
This new release from Eureka Classics boasts decent image quality. Not incredibly sharp but clear and detailed enough. The soundtrack offers up original Cantonese mono, or 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio English dub. Although this isn’t a showcase for your surround system. Dialogue is clear though and the English dub is surprisingly good. There are two audio commentaries, the first from Asian film expert Frank Djeng and martial artist / actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels. The second has action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema. Then there’s a collector’s booklet featuring an essay by James Oliver. Add to this interviews with crew and stunt co-ordinators. There is also a second disk covering the career of stuntman Mark Houghton. No interview or anything with Sammo himself though seems a strange oversight.
Not often has Chinese / Hong Kong action cinema been privy to the big budgets you see for a major Hollywood production, but following the Oscar success of Ang Lee’s acclaimed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came this lavish, beautifully filmed movie. Director Yi-Mou Zhang’s (Raise the Red Lantern) 2002 action/drama stars Kung fu star Jet Li as a lone assassin on the brink of completing his mission, who recants his journey and the foes he has overcome to be before his intended target.
Told in a series of flashbacks, what’s most notable about this is that each flashback is given its own colour scheme; sequences shot in garish red with red costumes and red tinged scenery, or blue costumes and blue scenery and so on. It’s a very effective approach and looks stunning. Add to this several visually creative fight scenes, and although the style is excessive and not exactly realistic, it gives the movie a distinct personality.
As this is mostly of the wire-enhanced style martial arts, it can occasionally look a bit silly, but under Zhang’s direction it’s cool and exciting more often than it’s not. Li is stoic throughout, but proves an effective lead, even if the more emotional and deeper performances come from Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love) and Tony Leung (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). The story at times gets bogged down in philosophy too, and isn’t quite as engaging as I’d have liked. Regardless, this was still very entertaining and is possibly one of the best looking movies I’ve ever seen. Check it out.
I certainly like movies that are different and push boundaries, and the various French movies I have seen over the years have certainly done that. The last one to really stay with me was ‘Raw’, a nice little coming of age movie… with cannibalism. So when i saw all the attention that movie’s director, Julia Ducournau was getting for her follow up, the Palm D’or winning Titane – I just had to see it. This tells the story of a young woman, Alexia who when she was a child was involved in a car accident, and had a titanium plate placed in the head. As an adult she is a dancer at an auto-erotica show fetishising cars when an encounter with an over-zealous fan ends tragically.
Like a French take on David Cronenberg’s Crash, complete with his brand of body-horror this started out interesting, but quickly took a turn for the worse as the main character goes on the run, changes her sex and reacquaints herself with her weirdo fire-fighter father. As an exploration of a disturbed individual, it makes little coherent sense, throwing in a phantom pregnancy and drawn-out scenes of homo-eroticism and borderline incest. There’s some hints if you look for them of why characters are doing what they’re doing, but its all incredibly vague snd I just watched this with a puzzled expression on my face.
Performances are ok, the main actress is involved in some challenging scenes and comes across convincingly unhinged. There’s also an underlying LGBTQ message here too, but it mostly went over my head. Overall, this was one of the most bizarre movies I’ve seen for a while, and sadly not in a good way. Another acclaimed movie that disappoints.
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