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Features Live Action Movies

The Battle At Lake Changjin (Zhang Jin Hu, 长津湖)

Directors – Chen Kaige, Dante Lam, Tsui Hark – 2021 – China – Cert. 15 – 176m

*****

Chinese war movie which has barnstormed the global box office does exactly what it says on the tin – out in cinemas on Friday, November 19th

There is a history of war films with a cast of thousands being directed by several (usually three) directors in an attempt to portray campaigns with huge military logistics on the screen. Probably the best known are The Longest Day (Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernard Wicki, 1962) about the World War Two Allied invasion of Normandy and Tora! Tora! Tora! (Richard Fleischer, Toshio Matsuda, Kinji Fukasaku, 1970) about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Both of those Western (and, as it happens, Twentieth Century Fox) movies presented both sides of the conflict by hiring directors from the different countries concerned.

The big difference between them and Chinese global box office phenomenon The Battle At Lake Changjin is that although the latter film deals with a conflict in which the Chinese are pitted against the Americans, all three directors are Chinese. Tsui (Zu Warriors, 1983; Once Upon A Time In China, 1991) at least has some working knowledge of America, having studied film in Texas.… Read the rest

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]

Full review in 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 Features Movies

True North

Director – Eiji Han Shimizu – 2020 – Japan, Indonesia – 93m

****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

The life of an ordinary family living in Pyongyang is interrupted when their father disappears and their mother is unable to tell their infant son Yo-han and his younger sister Mi-hee exactly what has happened to him, although she reassures them that everything will be fine. A few days later, in the middle of the night, there’s a knock at the door of their apartment. Officials come in and search the place, make the family pack a few belongings then put them into a truck.

On the ensuing journey, there are no stops for the lavatory. The truck takes them to a political camp where they will be imprisoned although it’s never quite clear what offence they have committed. Father is apparently an enemy of the state, even though he appears to have an exemplary record. Despite promises that the family will see him soon, he’s not in the camp to which they’ve been taken. They are going to have to fend for themselves there.

Mother does her best to keep her kids’ spirits up – no mean task when you’re living on meagre rations and forced to do backbreaking work shifts harvesting crops in the fields (woman and girls) or working in the mines (men and boys).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Camp 14: Total Control Zone

Director – Marc Weise – Cert. 12 – 2012 – Germany, South Korea – 106m

*****

Utterly devastating documentary built around interviews with (mainly) a man who was born into and as an adult escaped from a North Korean Death Camp and (with less material) a former guard at one such camp. It being impossible to film inside such camps, the film makers brilliantly deploy bleak, grey toned animation to put images of camp life (classrooms, public executions) on the screen. Be horrified as humans grow and develop in an environment devoid of moral goodness. One of the most unsettling films you’ll ever see.

Here’s the trailer:

This review originally appeared in Film Review Annual.

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Lovers And The Despot

Directors – Ross Adam, Robert Cannan – 2016 – UK – Cert. PG – 98m

Jeremy Clarke on a story too crazy to be anything but true…

This documentary concerns a South Korean film director and his leading actress, kidnapped by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il for the purpose of beefing up that country’s film industry – an incredible story that may be familiar from the earlier book on the subject, A Kim Jong-Il Production.

Actress Choi Eun-hee met director Shin Sang-ok on his 1955 film Dream. They became a celebrity couple working together on numerous films and raising a family until she discovered he had fathered two more children with a younger actress. The couple’s seeming fairy-tale romance disintegrated into divorce. Shin’s production company was in financial trouble and his wife began looking elsewhere for film projects.

In 1978, Choi took a trip from South Korea to Hong Kong to meet a producer and discuss a possible production. She never returned. A few months later, ex-husband Shin followed her trail. He too disappeared…

Read more over at All The Anime.

See also: Camp 14: Total Control Zone.

Trailer: