White Snake / 白蛇：缘起 [Báishé: Yuánqǐ] (2019)
Director: Amp Wong, Ji Zhao
Writer: Da Mao
Cast: Xiaoxi Tang, Tianxing Yang, Zhe Zhang
A snake demon, Xiao Bai / Blanca, who has attained human form loses her memory and is rescued by a human man, Xuan. They begin to fall in love but Xiao Bai’s fellow snake demons including her sister, Xiao Qing / Verta, track her down in order to remind her of her mission. Humans and demons are enemies and cannot be allowed to fall in love with each other.
The inspiration of this story has roots in Chinese folklore and mythology. This movie is apparently meant to be a prequel to the Chinese legend, Madame White Snake, an extremely popular tale in China. Like that legend, this movie’s story is very much a forbidden romance type of story. It’s also more adult oriented. There’s nothing that is necessarily sensitive for kids to see but there is an obviously implied sex scene at one point but nothing is shown at all. There’s no blood (or at least I don’t really remember it) but some fight scenes can be pretty violent and one involves something being cut into multiple pieces.
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The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil / 악인전 [Akinjeon] (2019)
Director & Writer: Lee Won-tae
Cast: Don Lee aka Ma Dong-seok, Kim Moo-yul, Kim Sung-kyu
Fantasia recently added a second screening on Sunday, July 28.
The English title pretty much states the three main characters of this story. It’s not a three way confrontation but more of a tenuous team-up of a gang boss (Don Lee) and a cocky detective (Kim Moo-yul) to track down a serial killer, who tried to kill the gang boss and didn’t succeed. The gang boss has a reputation to uphold and agrees to an uneasy alliance proposed by the detective who has been trying to convince his own superior in the police department that there is a serial killer on the loose.
This movie is definitely aware of Don Lee aka Ma Dong-seok’s numerous cinema appearances as a no-nonsense nigh unbreakable brick house of a man. There’s no doubt that Lee is the star of this movie but Kim Moo-yul does pretty well to stand out himself, showing a bravado and persistence that plays off Lee’s character well. The detective is definitely a loose cannon.
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Miss and Mrs Cops / 걸캅스 [gal keopseu / Girl Cops] (2019)
Director & Writer: Jung Da-won
Cast: Ra Mi-ran, Lee Sung-kyung, Yoon Sang-hyun, Choi Soo-young
A mother (Ra Mi-ran) who is a former police officer and her sister in law (Lee Sung-kyung) who is a police officer team-up to unofficially investigate the case of a woman who was drugged and raped in a video that the perpetrators plan to release on a website when the video gets 30,000 likes.
The is a tale of two tones. One serious and the other comedic. This movie flips between the two extremes numerous times throughout the running time. It’s not the first movie (particularly Korean) to do this but it is a balance that is tricky to get right. But some subjects are maybe not appropriate to try mixing comedy with. I’d argue spy cam rape video qualifies as such a subject.
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House of Hummingbird / 벌새 [Beolsae] (2019)
Director & Writer: Kim Bora
Cast: Park Ji-hu, Kim Sae-byuk, Lee Seung-yeon, Jeong In-gi
During the year 1994, a teenage girl struggles with a seemingly unsympathetic family and other challenges with school and friends. She encounters problems big and small but ultimately there is happiness and love to be found in her less than ideal life. She begins to realize that those around her also struggle with their own problems.
This is the first full length feature of director (Kim Bo-Ra) and what an amazing debut it is. It’s a slice of life family drama shown mainly from the perspective of the youngest daughter, Eun-hee (Park Ji-hu) who has an older sister and brother. She has to deal with her brother hitting her and friendships that seem to come and go on a whim. She meets a sympathetic cram school teacher, Young-Ji (Kim Sae-Byuk) but like many things she latches onto, it doesn’t last.
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Fly Me to Saitama / 翔んで埼玉 [Tonde Saitama] (2019)
Director: Hideki Takeuchi
Writer: Yuichi Tokunaga
Cast: Fumi Nikaido, Gackt, Yusuke Iseya, Masaki Kyomoto
Producer: Hiroki Wakamatsu
Two parents are driving their daughter to her engagement ceremony. She’s looking forward to moving to Tokyo and is ashamed of growing up in Saitama. They listen to a radio drama (or urban myth as the daughter calls it) about how Tokyo oppressed and persecuted people from Saitama, who then rebelled in a revolution.
This is a tongue in cheek comedy that doesn’t merely skewer but viciously makes fun of Saitama as a place with nothing interesting. There are some jabs directed at other prefectures including their rival Chiba, Gunma and Tokyo but make no mistake target #1 is Saitama. The jokes are also varied. There are sight gags like less desirable prefectures looking like desolate areas or wild untamed jungles. The high class Tokyo people wear ridiculously garish, bourgeois outfits. They stutter out of disgust and fear when merely attempting to say the name of an undesirable prefecture. The actors completely chew the scenery and are as pompous as possible. One joke is so funny because it puts the character in the ridiculous situation of a smelling test. I won’t say more about it because it would spoil the joke but that got huge laughs from the audience.
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Dance with Me / ダンスウィズミー [Dansu Wizu Mi] (2019)
Director & Writer: Shinobu Yaguchi
Cast: Ayaka Miyoshi, Yuu Yashiro, Chay, Takahiro Miura, Tsuyoshi Muro
Producer: Shoji Masui
Cinematographer: Kazuhiro Taniguchi
A female office worker, Shizuka Suzuki (Ayaka Miyoshi, former idol member of Sakura Gakuin), detests musicals but unintentionally gets hypnotized into dancing whenever she hears music. This causes real-life consequences such as very costly property damage. When she can’t find the hypnotist where she first encountered him, she embarks on a road trip to track down him down so that he can reverse the hypnosis. She meets others who join her along the way such as the hypnotist’s former assistant and a street musician.
This is a comedy musical but it’s not your typical musical where nobody bats an eyelash when everybody suddenly bursts into song then returns to the regularly scheduled story as if it was all totally normal. This movie actually shows the difference between the fantastical musical that Shizuka perceives while she uncontrollably sings & dances and the actual bewildered and sometimes horrified reactions of the people in real life. It’s ingenious and hysterical.
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The Dude in Me / 내안의 그놈 [Naeanui Geunom] (2019)
Director: Kang Hyo-jin
Writer: Park Dae-sung
Cast: Young Jin, Ra Mi-ran, Park Sung-woong
A bullied overweight teenager (Young Jin) is thought to have attempted suicide by jumping off a building. Instead of going splat on the pavement, he falls onto a 40 something year old businessman / gangster (Park Sung-woong). Both survive leaving the gangster in the a coma but when the teenager wakes up, he isn’t himself but rather has the mind of the gangster.
The body swap comedy is definitely a setup that can generate laughs but it relies heavily on the acting. This is one of the better ones with lots of humor and a good central performance. It’s also accompanied by a fair number of fight scenes, which are more like one-sided beat downs administered by the gangster in the teenager’s body. The majority of the movie is the gangster in the teenager’s body. By comparison there is not much of the teenager in the gangster’s body. It only comes up closer to the end in the buildup to the climax.
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Brave Father Online – Our Story of Final Fantasy XIV /
劇場版ファイナルファンタジーXIV 光のお父さん (2019)
Director: Teruo Noguchi, Kiyoshi Yamamoto
Writer: Kota Fukihara
Cast: Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kotaro Yoshida
Cinematographer: Hikaru Yasuda
Adapted from the TV series Final Fantasy XIV Dad of Light, which itself is based on a true story of a son who secretly becomes friends with his father in Final Fantasy 14, an MMORPG video game, in order to get to know him better.
I initially had zero interest in watching this. The title and premise sounded cheesy to me. The idea that a significant part of the movie (apparently around 40%) is told with video game scenes sounded like an awful narrative device. However, on the other hand, it’s intriguing that these video game scenes required a separate director to direct real video game players to play the game in a way that would work to tell the story in a film. I’m pretty sure this is innovative (well besides the TV show version that did it already). At least, I certainly cannot think of a movie that has used an actual video game world to tell part of its story.
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