75 Films From Asia: PSYCHOKINESIS (2018)

Psychokinesis (2018) is a noble and entertaining directorial effort with its various ups and downs.

CREDIT: Next Entertainment World

All the superhero films I am used to watching are from the United States, which are controlled by the two giant brands, Marvel and DC. These films can get a bit stale over time with not much to say beyond the surface of the film. Now, this is not the first film Yeon Sang-ho having watched, Train To Busan (2016). I am even looking forward to his next directorial effort, Peninsula (2020). As you can tell, I went into Psychokinesis (2018) with some form of expectations seeing what this director can do with all his skills in his arsenal.

The film revolves around a bank security guard who gains telekinetic powers by drinking out of a water fountain that was struck by a meteor. He uses his powers to make money at first but then tries to help his estranged daughter when a company wants to take their family business down. Psychokinesis (2018) is a good movie with an interesting plot involving superpowers and class warfare. The film is not perfect by any means but it has a lot of heart in it. The film’s second act lacks structured pacing to it, and some of the characters feel as if they are just there with no motives. Although it is not great there are a lot of characteristics that make it worth finishing like its wonderful cinematography and fight choreography. Once again, the film shows that Yeon Sang-ho understands completely how to handle the camera and set up the atmosphere of the film. The problem of this film mostly lies within the writing of the film but overall it is not the worst or best movie-watching experience I have had.

Watch Psychokinesis (2018) on Netflix. We also reviewed this film on The Nerd Corps so go and check out what we had to say about it! Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.

75 Films From Asia: THE TERRORIZERS (1986)

Edward Yang’s 1986 film is an intricate piece of art that’s nuances and beauties might not be apparent at first but stick with you long after you’ve seen the film.

CREDIT: Central Motion Pictures

I have always heard of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema and probably the most notable director in the movement, Edward Yang, but I never decided to actually venture into him or this genre of film. Of course, there is a lot of movies and director in this challenge that I have never watched, but there was something about Edward Yang that was pulling me to him. This film has three groups of people that interact with each other as they maneuver a changing Taiwan not just politically but economically. The world is becoming more and more difficult for the youth to maneuver with globalization and money at its forefront.

To be quite frank, most of the time a movie like this would seem a bit too convoluted to me but that was not the case for The Terrorizers (1986). The message is so clearly there and filled with various nuances. I am sure the more films I watch from Yang, the more I will learn to appreciate this one a bit more. It is beautifully shot and directed with interesting characters who truly feel like a page out of Taiwan at the time with its changing landscape. The film poses this odd feeling of a documentary, as if it is a slice of life film but then returns to its odd story structure. I am hesitant to call this a masterpiece, but I am sure with time there will be more to dissect and analyze. Along with its brilliant writing, directing, and cinematography the film also features fantastic performances that truly give life to these characters Yang writes. My favorite being the novelist wife of the doctor who feels as she is caged by her own life and wants more out of it.

I am sure as time goes by I will learn to appreciate my introduction of Taiwanese New Wave cinema more and even the work of Edward Yang. This is a film that deserves more time to consume and a lot more time to think about. I will say this though, Edward Yang has a way of turning such a small scale story and making it grand. There was never a moment in this film that I did not feel that it did not feel as important as it is, and that is a testament to the filmmaker that is Edward Yang.

Watch The Terrorizers (1985) on Prime Video. Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.

75 Films From Asia: SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE (2005)

Park Chan-wook conclude his Vengeance Trilogy with one of the most underrated pieces of cinema ever created.

CREDIT: CJ Entertainment

The final film in Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is another fantastic inclusion in the masterclass of work that he has created. Lady Vengeance (2005) follows a similar pattern to Oldboy (2003) as it follows a woman released from prison for a murder she did not commit. Lee Geum-ja played by Lee Young-ae seeks revenge from the real murderer and this gets bloody fast. Now, even if the story sounds similar to Oldboy (2003), Chan-wook turns the table on you and creates another riveting and nuanced installment in his trilogy. The film not only follows by the beat of its drum but it also manages to include some of the most beautiful imagery I’ve seen yet.

Park Chan-wook is a director of many skills and this movie shows how rough his work can be but also including such tender nuances like the importance of a Mother being there for her daughter, sharing trauma to move past it together, and truly not being able to move on from trauma even if it is “fixed.” The world of this film is grim with a prison system that is so corrupt and unorganized that it allows for sexual assault and power structures to emerge inside. There’s a scene that truly empowers the idea of “teamwork makes the dream work.” I am so happy that I watched these three incredible films, and cannot wait to finish the rest of his filmography. One thing is certain, Park Chan-wook is my favorite Korean director and I am one hundred percent confident of that.

Watch Lady Vengeance (2005) on Shudder. Follow along with the rest of this challenge on Letterboxd or the google doc that has the rest of the films on this challenge.

75 Films From Asia: SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE (2002)

The first film of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy is explosive, bloody, and incredibly nuanced from start to end.

CREDIT: CJ Entertainment

I don’t know if I am just excited to continue with this challenge or just the thought of watching and reviewing a film by legendary Korean director, Park Chan-wook, which makes me incredibly excited? This is the first of his Vengeance Trilogy and I am starting to feel somewhat dumb for watching this one after Oldboy (2003) but maybe after this is all done I will watch the trilogy in order. Even though I had watched other films of his before this absolutely nothing could prepare me for this anxiety-inducing film from Chan-wook.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) follows the story of a deaf brother and his girlfriend as they try to acquire money for a kidney transplant for his sister by holding a wealthy man’s daughter for ransom. The film includes the cast of  Song Kang-ho, Bae Doona, Han Bo-bae, and Im Ji-eun as they deliver excellent performances. Everyone is fantastic in this film, but I have to give it up for Shin Ha-kyun whose body language and mannerisms truly make the character of Ryu. Of course, Song Kang-ho is incredible as he always is and I think I might have to admit that he is probably one of if not the best Korean actor of all time.

The film does take a bit to unravel at first but once it picks up you are in for a ride that only Park Chan-wook can create. There are blood, sweat, and tears throughout this whole film with incredible levels of nuance on the subject matter. Once again, Chan-wook is no stranger to tackling classism and the faults of capitalism. He also tackles the state of the opposition against the higher class and how some may not even think such opposition even exists. Not only is this well written but it is photographed magnificently by Kim Byung-il, seriously every other shot can be hung up on a wall as an art piece. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) is another masterpiece by the genius director and one that stands out in his already prolific filmography.

Watch Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) on Shudder. You can keep up with this movie challenge of mine by checking out my Letterboxd or the google doc of all the films I will be watching and reviewing.

75 Films From Asia: SHOPLIFTERS (2018)

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters (2018) is a perfectly crafted film that plays a tune with your heartstrings that you never want to end.

CREDIT: GAGA Pictures

So if you were betting that I wouldn’t give out a five star in the first five movies I review for this challenge, then sadly today you lost, my friends. I don’t think I could even prepare myself for this movie. I wanted to watch this one not just because it won the Palme d’Or, but I’ve been recommended to watch Kore-eda’s work multiple times. I have to say that this did not disappoint in the slightest.

Shoplifters (2018) features a group of outsiders all banded together by their misfit qualities take into their home a little girl, which sets off a wide array of events and secrets surrounding the “family.” The film has its various twists and turns, which makes you learn to love this obscure family. You spend so much time with each character that makes it hard to say goodbye to some of them. Kor-eda does such a great job of making you care for these characters that when you find out the reason why they are together, it is hard to hold onto your prior feelings about them.

Kor-eda also includes necessary conversations in social class structures and classism. Why is it that the family has to shoplift to survive? Why do some of the family members have to resort to sex work as a means of making money? Overall, do any of these things make these strangers any less of a family than those of us bound by blood? The analysis included in this film is powerful and one that I will keep in mind when discussing some of the best movies from this challenge.

Shoplifters (2018) is available to watch on Hulu. Catch up on the rest of this challenge by visiting my Letterboxd or the google doc that includes all the films that I am covering. I implore every single person reading this review to watch this film, you will absolutely not regret it.