Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Assassins

Director – Ryan White – 2020 – US – Cert. – 104m

*** 1/2

Documentary explores how two women unwittingly assassinated ruling Korean family member Kim Jong-nam at Malaysia Airportin virtual cinemas and on VoD from Friday, January 29th

In 2017, Kim Jong-nam, half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was killed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) by two young women who appeared out of nowhere – one of them clad in a T-shirt bearing the legend LOL – to press VX nerve agent, apparently the deadliest chemical on earth, into his eyes. The whole thing was captured on security cameras and the two women arrested soon after. Stranger still, neither seemed to know why they were being arrested.

This is one of those current affairs documentaries where the makers have been fortunate to stumble on an incredible story. Although the film details the assassination at some length, its real subject matter is the fall guys – or, more specifically, fall girls. Neither was Malaysian: both were immigrants – Siti Aisyah from Indonesia, Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam. We are introduced to the world of the social media video prank, where for example a woman will appear and hold the hand of a man she’s never met before or unexpectedly kiss him in public for the camera, as a comic episode.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Assassins

Not such a harmless prank

Assassins
Directed by Ryan White
Certificate 12, 104 minutes
Released 29 January, online

In 2017, Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia briefly became headline news when Kim Jong-nam, half brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was killed there. The story behind his assassination is truly unsettling, involving as it does two young women who seemingly had no idea what they were getting into… [Read more]

Review for Reform magazine.

See my alternate, longer review on this site.

Assassins is out in virtual cinemas and on VoD in the UK from Friday, January 29th.

Trailer:

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2020

Work in progress – subject to change.

Top Ten (UK theatrical + online movie releases 2020)

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/20 and 31/01/20. I’ve never previously included online releases (well, maybe the odd on or two as a special case) but this year the film distribution business has been turned upside down by COVID-19. How 2021 and beyond will look is anyone’s guess.

Please click on titles to see reviews. (Some links yet to be added.)

1. Parasite (S.Korea) reviews one and two

2. Coup 53 (UK)

3. A Hidden Life (US/Austria/Germany)

4. Akira (1988, IMAX reissue) (Japan)

5. The Eight Hundred (China)

6. Possessor (Canada) reviews one and introductory link to two

7. Misbehaviour (UK)

8. Dick Johnson Is Dead (US)

9. Away (Latvia, no dialogue!)

10. Snowpiercer
(2013, Eng lang, S.Korea, UK theatrical release in 2020 – finally!)

11. Run (UK)

12. Sócrates (Brazil)

13. County Lines (UK)

14. First Love (Japan)

15. Parasite (Black & White) (S.Korea)

16. The Vast Of Night (US)

17. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (US)

18. Over The Moon (US/China)

19. WolfWalkers (Ireland) reviews one and two

20. Sheep Without A Shepherd (China)

21.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Woman Who Ran (Domangchin Yeoja)

Director – Hong Sang Soo – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12A – 77m

*****

Three women – plus one. An urban woman’s visits to three out-of-town friends gently calls into question both their and her everyday lives – at Curzon Bloomsbury and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, December 11th, then on MUBI from Sunday, December 20th

Seoul resident Gam-hee (Kim Min-hee) is away from her husband for a few days and while he’s on a rare business trip is taking the opportunity to visit old friends. As she explains to each of them, her husband says that people in love should stick to each other. She feels loved.

Yet this mantra is called into question by the presence and lives of the three women she visits. Divorcee Young-soon (Seo Young-hwa) has a nice little apartment which she shares with a flatmate Young-ji (Lee Eun-mi) who is an incredible cook. Su-young (Song Seon-mi), who puts together dance performances, has discovered a nice little local bar full of artists, architects and other creative types. Woo-jin (Kim Sae-byuk) is tiring of her famous author husband Mr. Jung (Kwon Hae-hyo) who she thinks talks too much.

Jung is only seen briefly towards the end and is representative of the men in the film in that he is a peripheral character in the drama.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Beasts Clawing At Straws (Jipuragirado Japgo Sipeun Jimseungdeul)

Director – Kim Yong-hoon– 2020 – South Korea – 108m

****

A number of individuals in dire financial straits do whatever they can to get hold of a bag of money – terrific opening night film from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), on now

Seemingly disparate plot strands suggest a group of separate stories about to be narrated in parallel, but in fact they’re all part of the same story and eventually converge in this compelling thriller involving an ensemble of characters and a bag of money. A number of the characters are in dire and indeed impossible financial circumstances with no obvious way out. The bag of money, when it turns up in each of their lives, represents a possible escape route for each of them.

Lowly bathhouse attendant Jung-man (Bae Seong-woo) finds the abandoned carryall stuffed full with wads of banknotes in a locker on the premises. Of course, the right thing to do would be to hand it in to his boss, but his boss is a nasty piece of work who fires any employee who’s late twice. Besides, Jung-man’s incontinent mother (Youn Yuh-jung) who lives in his home has dementia, refuses to wear incontinence pads and makes life hell for his wife who works a menial cleaner’s job at the airport.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Bori

Director – Kim Jin-yu – 2017 – South Korea – Cert. – 109m

***

Pre-teenager Bori feels alienated from her little brother, mum and dad because she’s the only one who isn’t deaf available to watch from 10am-11pm on Thursday November 12th as the Online Closing Gala of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF).

Pre-teenager Bori (Kim Ah-song) lives by the sea with her close and loving family – a dad who often works nights on ships, a devoted mum, a little brother Jeungwoo (Lee Rin-ha) who’s brilliant offensive futsal player. Her best friend Eun-jeong (Hwang Yoo-rim) is the daughter of the delivery man at the local takeaway restaurant, whose very reasonably priced black bean noodle dishes the family avail themselves of often. Bori’s dad, mum and little brother are all deaf, so at home they communicate in sign language.

The family go to a firework display where Bori slips away from the edges of a crowded tent where she can’t really see anything and goes to talk to an immigrant stallholder about his jewellery. But then she can’t find the family and after wandering around, hands herself in at the local police station where her family later find her.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Underdog (Eondeodog) a.k.a. A Dog’s Courage

Directors – Lee Choon-baek, Oh Sung-yoon – 2018 – South Korea – Cert. U – 102m

****

An abandoned dog falls in with a pack of wild dogs with whom he learns to survive – animated feature plays online from 2pm Friday, November 6th to 2pm Monday, November 9th, book here, from the Animation strand of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF)

In a genuinely heartbreaking opening, a man drives out to nowhere, tells his dog he’s totally free and leaves him a big bag of dog biscuits. The man throws a tennis ball and while the dog runs to fetch it, he drives away. We pull out to vast landscapes, emphasising the dog is alone.

Before long, the dog Moong-Chi (voice: Do Kyung-soo) runs in to a pack of similarly abandoned dogs who are living in a derelict building which they share with the newcomer. That isn’t going to last though: a digger moves in to demolish it. Moong-chi must be rescued by pack member and small scots terrier Jjang-a (voice: Park Cheol-min) from the hunter, a cruel biker who catches and imprisons dogs for the sole purpose of breeding them for profit. As bitch Ba-mi (voice: Park So-dam, from Parasite, Bong Joon Ho, 2109) puts it, it’s a dog factory.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Intimate Strangers (Wanbyeokhan tain)

Director – Lee Jae-kyoo – 2018 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 115m

****

Four couples attend a dinner party where a game with mobile phones threatens to revel all their intimate secrets – online from 2pm Friday, November 6th to 2pm Monday, November 9th, book here, from the Special Focus: Friends and Family strand of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) taking place right now

A group of male friends since childhood and their wives and girlfriends meet for a house-warming of one of their number. One of the wives suggests a game. Why don’t they all put their mobile phones on the table and share any call, text, email or data that comes in?

Actually, it turns out there are some very good reasons why not – as they will all discover during the course of the evening. Indeed, the film’s final five minutes or so (and, strangely, this is not a spoiler) shows the couples driving home separately and contentedly after a pleasant evening where they wisely declined to play the game. All’s right with the world.

However, in between that coda and the opening, 34 years earlier prologue in which the four men’s childhood selves catch fish through a hole in the ice of a frozen river then spend the evening together round a camp fire in the dark, the four couples do indeed play this game at the present day house-warming.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Totally Under Control

Directors – Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger – 2020 – US – Cert. 12 – 123m

***1/2

Documentary looks at the Trump administration’s handling of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US – in cinemas from Friday, October 23rd and on iTunes, Amazon, Google, BFI Player, Curzon, Sky, Rakuten, Virgin. On BBC iPlayer from Sunday, November 1st.

This is a documentary shot, as it were, on the hoof. It constitutes a record of near-contemporary events as they unfolded in the recent past, in two of three very specific geographic locations. Two or three because the subject is the early months of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic in the origin of which the third country, China, specifically the city of Wuhan, played the major part. But this film isn’t really about China beyond that country’s being the source of the infection.

Nor is it really about the second country, South Korea, here quite reasonably held up to the audience as a paragon of virtue in its handling of the crisis. The film is really about the first country, the US, during this period, which had a playbook ready and waiting should such a crisis come to pass.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Moving On (Nam-mae-wui Yeo-reum-bam)

Director – Yoon Dan-bi – 2019 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 105m

***1/2

A father takes his teenage daughter and her younger brother to stay with their ageing grandfather for the Summer – online from 2pm Monday, November 2nd to 2pm Wednesday, November 4th, book here, from the Special Focus: Friends and Family strand of the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) taking place right now

It’s the Summer, so dad (Yang Heung-joo) takes his two kids, teenage daughter Okju (Choi Jun-un) and smaller son Dongju (Park Seung-jun) off to stay with Grandpa (Kim Sang-dong). Moving location is no problem work-wise since he makes a living selling tennis shoes out of his small van on the street. It’s a precarious existence – at one point, he asks a man who runs a fabric shop whether he makes good money in that trade. And when Okju tries to sell some herself, she comes up against a buyer who has realised that the shoes are knock-offs.

There’s quite a bit of sibling rivalry – immediately on moving in, Okju refguses to let Dongju sleep in the room she has nabbed for herself after setting up her mosquito net.… Read the rest