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WrathfulGrape "(Korean film lover)" RSS Feed (New York, NY United States)

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Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War
Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War
DVD ~ Dong-gun Jang
Price: $9.99
70 used & new from $0.01

20 of 62 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Looking beyond Taegukgi to the film itself, February 27, 2005
Before I launch into what is going to be a very harsh review, I want to say that I DO understand how this movie did so spectacularly well at the Korean box office. The Korean War ripped entire families apart and anything with such deep patriotic themes is bound to be successful. It would be as if someone made a movie about 9-11. No matter how bad the movie is, people will flock to see it. It will be that mental and emotional connection that people will identify with and weep to.

So this review in no way discounts what may be your emotional connection to the war.

Kang Je Kyu (SHIRI) has been described as the Korean Spielberg in many Western reviews of this film. The parallels between TAEGUKGI and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN have been beaten to death.

I must STRONGLY disagree with this assessment though.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN was bookended by two extremely well shot and edited war sequences that were graphic and raw and shocked audiences with their realistic depiction of war. They were effective because they plunged you into the war-as-hell motif from the get go and also reminded you at the end of the brutality and the randomness of death. In between, there was 2 hours of character development, so that when you finally get to the second battle scene, you care about the characters so that the war becomes not just raw, but also suspense inducing because of the initial setup.

(for the record, I was not a fan of SPR...I did not think that apart from the 2 battle sequences, that it was an effective film, but I do understand what Spielberg was trying to do).

With TAEGUKGI, you get the complete opposite.

We start off with an approximate 10 minute sequence that introduces us to the characters. We meet the current day Jin Seok, who is summoned to a Korean War site to identify items found. Then we are in the idylllic 1950's Seoul and we meet Jin Tae (played woodenly by Jang Dong Gun), who shines shoes and forewent his education for the sake of his younger brother, Jin Seok's schooling(another one-note performance from current flavor-of-the-week Won Bin). We also meet Jin Tae's fiancee, Young Shin (Lee Eun Ju, in about 7 minutes of total movie screentime).

These opening scenes are somewhat charming as we see the love between the 2 brothers and the sets are really good. The actor who played the older Jin Seok is also very touching.

However, the movie quickly falls apart after the brothers are separated from their family.

We are "treated" to battle after battle as Jin Tae tries to protect his younger brother, who has a heart condition, from the war. This one-man Rambo takes on entire SQUADRONS in kamikaze missions in order to win the coveted Hero's Medal so that he can send his younger sibling home.

This goes on for about, oh I don't know, TWO HOURS. Relentless battles are really boring. And especially when they are all filmed with handhelds, resulting in myopic seizure since the screen is constantly shaking.

In between battles, there will be maybe 5 seconds of real dialogue, which was badly written and cliched as well as badly acted.

I swear, I groaned everytime a character said "let's go fight them!" And the culmination was a really REALLY ridiculous Jang Dong Gun (why is this actor so famous? HE CAN'T ACT!) with a pointy beard and all, fighting on the side of the North Koreans. To further demonize the North Koreans, his eyeballs are rolled to the back of his head, ala THE EXORCIST. You *really* expect his head to start spinning...I kid you not.

There is absolutely no characterization or motivation for these characters. Scenes are dropped in and characters take actions that leave you scratching your head in confusion.

Now, why would I give this movie 2 stars out of 5? Isn't that a bit generous considering what I just said?

The extra star comes from the last scenes, when the present day Jin Seok returns to the site and realizes that his brother died on the battlefield long ago and was not actually alive in North Korea. There is a very very powerful scene in which all the pain and anguish of the families who have lost members due to the separation of North and South Korea comes full circle. This scene was like something out of a better movie and for this and only this, am I awarding the extra star.

This movie is important for all Koreans and Korean Americans to see because it supports the Korean film industry and with the US limited release, if there is enough support, there will be a much better chance of BETTER movies being ported over to a wider audience.

However, this movie, is one from a cinematic POV, that I cannot recommend.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2011 8:46 AM PDT


Time After Time
Time After Time
Price: $13.99
123 used & new from $0.29

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We have to thank Superboy for this..., May 8, 2002
This review is from: Time After Time (Audio CD)
Yes, I admit it.
I love watching Smallville on the WB. And what I always found aggravating was the fact that at the end of each episode, there would be little announcements of who did what song during the show, followed with an album shot.
These little ad-bits never cease to annoy me.
However...
Last night's episode featured this amazing cover of "Time After Time," a song that a true child of the 80's remembers as one of the most honest and sincere songs of all time. And it was sung in such a melancholy, yearning, clear voice.
For once, I couldn't wait for the ad-bit to show up at the end, so maybe I could find out this miraculous singer's name....
And it was Eva Cassidy.
I did some research on her last night and found out sadly that she died at the young age of 33 from cancer. But in her lifetime, she lived humbly and without the marketing mish mosh. Her voice was clear and true, her vocalizations are absolutely gorgeous.
This album, and her Live album are HIGHLY recommended....(try to track down her beautiful cover of Sting's "Fields of Gold" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."


In the Mood for Love (The Criterion Collection)
In the Mood for Love (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ CRITERION COLLECTION: IN MOOD FOR LOVE
23 used & new from $10.67

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion at its very best, March 21, 2002
I had never seen "In the Mood for Love" and to be quite honest, was never a fan of Wong Kar Wai..I always found him to be a bit pretentious; as if he were trying to force Westernized techniques and cinematic fads into a Chinese mold...I never understood what the big deal about "Chungking Express" was...except for a totally awesome cover of the Cranberries "Dreams" in Cantonese by Faye Wong...
Well, with that said, I loved "In the Mood for Love." Dreamy and sensual filled with rich fabrics and colors and music, it is truly a feast for the eyes ears and senses. The story is heartbreaking, of two people who you just KNOW will never be together...this is well-established by the restricted mannerisms they adapt and the concern of image and reputation. I don't even think they were fighting their feelings, but instead, they gently rode them out until it got to the point where it was just skirting a bit too close to the edge.
You probably have heard lots on the beauty of the film, which is why you are here reading customer reviews, right? Or you must be a die-hard Criterion junkie. But folks, this 2-disk set is THE most impressive package I have ever seen from Criterion.
Why?
Because on the second disk, you see Wong Kar Wai filming and you see the rehearsals and tons of deleted scenes that never made it onto the final cut. And these are especially significant because they show us what a different film this could have been. I am not sure if "In the Mood for Love" was a happy accident (which you may conclude after watching all the supplemental material), but I can say that the scenes that didnt make it shed a whole new light on the scenes that did. You see Maggie and Tony reading the same lines in different settings, switching their lines, you see Tony's utter ease with Wong's method and you see Maggie's obvious discomfort (watch the Toronto Press Conference to hear a very guarded and careful statement by Maggie and then hear Wong Kar Wai say in the documentary that he and Maggie didn't hit it off from the get go for some hoots).
Pages of background by a noted historian puts the full story into the context of time and allows us to see why WKW set his story set pieces in particular years. Posters, conceptual art, trailers, its all there...and in French too! And check out the Russian one-sheet under promo materials to see a look that is totally different from those of America and Asia and Europe...
And the beautifully illustrated booklet with a short story that was a source for the film is another added bonus...
Folks..this is without a doubt one of the most beautiful packages ever. This movie didn't make me a fan of WKW, but you definitely walk away with fresh perspectives and a great education!
Don't miss out! And watch out for my review of "Rashomon" coming soon!


Walkabout (The Criterion Collection)
Walkabout (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Jenny Agutter
20 used & new from $8.48

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressions From an Initial Viewing, February 12, 2002
I remember first hearing about this film on Siskel (rest in peace) and Ebert when it was first released on DVD. Ebert made such a big deal about the Criterion release that it stuck in my mind...wow...a little Australian film about an aborigine and 2 white brats made him gush!
Since then , this movie has always been on my list of to-sees...I never heard too much about the film itself, just that it was on so many critics favorites lists and that it was not merely a film, but an experience...
Well, I finally clicked the "Proceed to Checkout" button and went for it.
And here is, in one line, my feelings on Walkabout after one viewing:
~I cannot wait to go home tonight and watch it again and again to discover the secrets hidden in its layers~
This is a movie that will be a pleasure to watch over and over...but also painful as it delivers a harsh look at the so-called civilized world that we live in...how it cripples us and restricts us and makes us miserable, non-communicative and helpless creatures.
The emptiness of the Girl's eyes...very much like the eyes of the creatures in the outback.
The Boy, in his innocence and joys, doomed to ultimately become Civilized Man...
And the aborigine...able to see life only thru his aborigine eyes...unable to change...unable to comprehend...
Nobody is primitive or reduced to the Noble Savage here..the characters are realistic...parallels are drawn between them and chasms separate them as well...
Beautiful outback cinematography only underscores this exploration of the human heart and the cracks and crevices of the human psyche...
Budding sexuality covers the film like a sheen...have trees ever seen so erotic and suggestive?
On the technical side, this film has beautifully restored color, but could have been fine tuned a little more in the scratches and dust department.
All in all, a keeper....and I am looking forward to many hours of re-viewing this...I want to unlock the secrets of this film...but can they be unlocked? I can only attempt and see...


Requiem for a Dream - Director's Cut
Requiem for a Dream - Director's Cut
DVD ~ Ellen Burstyn
35 used & new from $0.01

39 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stapling the Pieces of My Heart Back Together, July 3, 2001
This was a movie that I have heard so much about that I thought, "oh no...overkill." I am after all, a very bitter grape with a cynical eye towards marketing.
But to treat myself for my birthday, I ordered this and 4 other DVD's (you will be hearing reviews of those too...but you gotta find 'em!). And tonight, with another grape-y friend of mine, I watched it.
Let me just say, there will be SPOILERS so please read at your own discretion.
The first time you see those quick cuts of the syringe filling, the eyes dilating, the cotton balls, and the sighs of pleasure in the background, it's inevitable...you think "wow! COOL!"
But as the movie progresses and these 4 characters become less and less human, it ain't so cool no more. You see that montage of cuts over and over again and each time you see it, it means more doom. You start thinking "oh please, Harry..please don't do that..please..." It becomes ingrained in your head that this is no longer fun..it's a habit...it's an addiction..and the fact that it is shot so magnetically, you can't turn your head away no matter how much you start hating it. Much like drug addiction itself.
Ellen Burstyn, in that scene with Jared Leto in her apartment...when she talks about that red dress and Seymour and her hopes and dreams for Harry...I don't think you can get any more heartbreaking than that...her pathetic nature, her descent into madness, it's all up there and you can't stop watching. This is a woman on the cusp and you have no doubt in your mind she's going to go over...what an incredible performance in this scene...
Marion's prostitution and transformation into a full-blown junkie...you love her so much, and you hate her too for doing this to herself. Her degradation at the end was so un-sexual and I have no clue as to why the MPAA made such a big deal out of it...but what it was, and this is why I think they censored it and slapped it with an NC-17...was that it was NOT senseless....this scene is in there to show her humiliation, not her pleasure. And that this will surely not be the last time she does this. And sex that isn't mindless is not palatable to us sheep. Thus, the NC-17. What a pity we are treated like morons.
Marlon Wayans, what a surprise...'nuff said...and Jared Leto...the center of the film....never thought he had it in him. When he turns his head away and suggests that Marion goes on the date (trick?) with Arnold for money...my heart broke.
Add this to the visual style of the movie, the music, the sound...believe me folks...screw the MPAA and what they think is ok to see and not ok to see...this is an IMPORTANT film...on a critical level, you will never see performances stronger than these in any movie released in the last 2 years. On a social level...once you see this...once you see these characters (and that ARM!) go from healthy and loving to wisps of souls, you will never ever consider doing drugs...and if you already do, you will reconsider. Unless you are Harry, Marion, Tyrone, or Sara...chracters who can never turn back.
The moral?
There is a point where salvation will never find you. So don't even start walking in that direction.
Excuse me now, kiddies. I have to find my Swingline and scrape my heart off the floor.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
DVD ~ Chang Chen
Offered by Amazing Prime Express
Price: $8.50
649 used & new from $0.01

6 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars And this whole time I thought I was losing my hearing, June 19, 2001
ANYWAY...so I get home last night from a very hard day of hanging around waiting to be stomped. I pop in my brand spanking new Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon DVD and go straight for the goodie section (since I have seen the movie twice in the theater already, I was curious to see what extras the fine folks at Sony were going to stuff on my disk).
I decide to view the "Bravo" making-of featurette first...I am a total sucker for making-of films.
And BOOOOOM..the music hits you like a ton of bricks...BOMP BOMP BOMP or something like that. Then cut to director Ang Lee sitting in his director's chair...moving his lips...
Eh? I cant HEAR him! I scroll back a few frames...BOMP BOMP BOMP BOMP....and lips moving...so then I grab my remote and pump up the volume REALLY high...and then I hear it...this faint faint voice...gee whiz,,,is that ANG?
When I got into the grape factory this morning, I log onto Amazon and see that I was not the only one who thought the sound truly SUCKED on this disk...and this whole time I thought I was turning into a raisin.
I cannot express to you how disappointed I was at this DVD. I really loved Tan Dun's score, but MY LORD...I wanted to hear some of the dialogue too! And the poor sound quality was all over the disk too...
The images were crisp and pretty..the night fight scene, which was difficult to see in the theatre, was brightened the teeniest bit so that you can see the surfaces and the houses more clearly...
But there is no excuse for that GODAWFUL SOUND! I personally prefer subtitles, but that doesn't mean I dont want to hear the inflections in the actors voices...oh wait..I could barely hear those at all because of the GODAWFUL SOUND!
Grapes make very little money, therefore it was a pain to me to know that I wasted my hard earned dollars on a disk that is so low in quality.
Two lessons learned from this experience: 1) Always read customer reviews before buying anything, especially electronic stuff 2) Always wait for a special edition/platinum edition/Criterion...
(if they could do it for "The Rock," they could do it for this movie too)


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