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.

Sympathy for the Devil

an opinion on josh trank’s “capone”

This piece comes a little late, but so does everything for 2020 apparently. It has been a long time since I’ve come to sit in front of my keyboard and take up the mantle of “Cinema Reviewer,” but I felt the need to come to the defense of Josh Trank and his latest endeavor, “CAPONE” also known as “FONZO”. It seems other reviewers have not put 2015’s “Fantastic Four” behind them and still hold somewhat of a grudge when Trank’s name is brought up.

When movie audiences hear the name Al Capone, what they envision in their mind is the ruthless gangster; a criminal mastermind who ran the Chicago underworld in the 1920’s and 30’s. Maybe even Robert De Niro’s portrayal in “The Untouchables” where he wears a tuxedo and beats people to death with a baseball bat. Josh Trank’s “CAPONE” is no “The Untouchables”. It’s what happens after the glitz and glamour; where the violence and drama become silent; where old gangsters go to retire, to get old, and to fade away.

I think for many a person, they did not go in expecting what they saw in this movie. They went expecting an action movie where Capone puts his enemies down with a Thompson Submachine Gun and makes those who owe him debts eat through a straw. Those who already knew the story of Al Capone’s last years, I believe, had better expectations on what they were about to see on the screen. For those unaware, Al Capone’s last years were basically spent in what could be called medical retirement. Released from prison (his charges being that of tax evasion) early, at the age of 48, due to the complications of the late stages of syphilis which he apparently had since the age of 15. These complications included that of neurosyphilis which affects the nervous system, coordination, and can cause dementia.

So, instead of a tough talking villain, we have been shown the face of a man who is literally dying in front of us. Well, not just any man, but that of the legendary outlaw/criminal Al Capone who has been made a larger than life figure in our history and media thanks to multiple movies, books, and television shows (including that one where Geraldo Rivera’s career was destroyed and he can now only get a gig on Fox News of all places, but I will let you all research that one on your own time).

With this in mind, it is very easy to see just what Josh Trank and Tom Hardy (I can’t believe it took me this long to mention Tom Hardy in this) have accomplished. They took one of the most legendary historical figures and shone a light onto his last years and just how much of an ordinary human he was and how death is always the great equalizer. If “The Untouchables” was showcasing the climax of Capone’s legend, then “CAPONE” is it’s lowest depths, where he crawls slowly to that awaiting grave. Trank does not falter and does not shy away from showing the fragility of Capone, putting Tom Hardy in frame to drool over himself, smoke a carrot like Bugs Bunny, scream as his possessions are being sold off, and even shitting his silk drawers.

I personally think “CAPONE” is a marvelous insight into the final years of one of the most legendary and vile humans to walk the face of this earth. Al Capone doesn’t deserve our sympathy, but Josh Trank’s brilliance in storytelling and Tom Hardy’s gift of acting helps to rip it from us. ~ YoungYoda

Another Shark Tale…But Different

A Review of ‘bad cgi sharks’

Photo Credit: Bad CGI Sharks

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a fan when it comes to the B-movie genre, especially when it is one which involves sharks.  My eyes have been on the receiving end of too many badly acted, directed, and written scripts that have possibly dropped my IQ further than the copious amounts of alcohol I had consumed while day drinking in college.  Sharknado to me is almost as bad as the plastic surgeon hired by Tara Reid and if you listened to my comments on “The Nerd Corps” podcast, then you know my disdain of ‘The Meg’, which I refused to watch.  If I wanted to see Jason Statham punching and running from a large object, then I would just watch Hobbs and Shaw.

Where many of these movies falter is that they either don’t know they’re a horrible b-movie shark flick, or they do know it but bad acting and heavy-handed action sequences overpower the slight comedy sprinkled in (which, unfortunately, generally comes across as corny).  ‘Bad CGI Sharks’ however has decided to flip this and instead of relying on overpriced action sequences, they instead inject a far more comedic approach, relying on the dialogue (comedic not character) and a brotherly love story to be their foundation (they also throw in a magic Italian director who has the power to basically do whatever the f*ck he wants, which is kind of cool and more believable than a payphone existing in 2019).

Through the film, I found myself caring about the brothers and their story.  Matthew, being the more serious of the two, is made to deal with his estranged brother Jason who has basically downed 20 redbulls and is set free in Hollywood with his only dream being to make a Shark Movie they had written when they were eleven.  The dynamic between their two personalities helped set the tone of the film as both must work together while being chased by floating 3-D monstrosities that continuously fail to render. Because of this, Matthew learns to open up more and have fun while Jason realizes that not everything in life is sunshine and rainbows (just most of everything).  The brothers grow closer through each scene as they barely escape the pixelated jaws hunting them. 

I must also bring up the infinite entertainment value brought on by the continuous (what I like to call) “under the radar” jokes.  Those jokes which on paper probably aren’t seen as funny, but the dry humor and perfect delivery make me belly laugh into oblivion each time (Go watch Talladega Nights for more instances).  The best example of this is when Matthew is speaking with his boss, saying how his brother is ruining his life, and catches a glimpse of the self-motivation poster his employer has tacked up behind her.  He proceeds then to recite, “I want to learn…grow…and…suck…seed.” Now, many of these jokes are sprinkled throughout the film and their addition is a definite positive for any viewer who has the sense of humor of a prepubescent boy (which means me).

Bad CGI Sharks doesn’t shy away from what it is (hell, it’s the name of the movie) but barrels forward with low quality land?…hover? shark villains pushing our story along with a massive amount of comedic flare and a heart-warming journey.  Jason Ellsworth, Matthew Ellsworth, and Matteo Molinari have created something rather unique in a genre filled with the rotting filet-o-fishes of shark movie pasts.  Because of this, I’m giving Bad CGI Sharks a solid 8/10 rating.  YoungYoda Out.