Friday, January 22, 2016

Film Review: A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

A Tale of Two Sisters (Review)
Kim Jee-woon/Im Soo-jung/2003
Where to watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a human horror that digs into your skin and scars itself into your psyche."

Upon arriving home from a psychiatric hospital, sisters Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) and Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), along with their stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ha), witness disturbing events throughout the house...

A Tale of Two Sisters follows the titular sisters, Su-mi and Su-yeon – although it mostly follows the former. The pair arrive at their secluded estate and the tension immediately rises when they bump into their wicked stepmother. Su-mi and Su-yeon generally don't want anything to do with her, so they go about their day. However, as time slowly progresses, the pair begin to experience strange and terrifying events; Eun-joo is not excused from the horror, either. It would seem a malevolent spirit is lingering in the home and a disturbing family secret is yearning to escape. Of course, this is a film where the less you know, the better. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, I must say: the ending was a bit disappointing and even a little convoluted. It ultimately paints an effectively poignant portrait, but it feels a bit cheap — for lack of a better term.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Film Review: The Chronicles of Evil (2015)

The Chronicles of Evil (Review)
Beak Woon-hak/Son Hyun-joo/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...I was fully engaged during the latter half and astonished by the climax."

Days before his prestigious promotion, homicide detective Choi Chang-sik (Son Hyun-joo) spirals into a tailspin when he accidentally murders someone and covers up the death...

The Chronicles of Evil follows Choi Chang-sik – a highly decorate homicide detective in line for a promotion. After a night of celebratory drinking, he is attacked by his taxi driver. He kills said taxi driver, then covers up his crime. The next day, he finds his victim dangling from a crane for the world to see. So, as his peers race to find the truth, Chang-sik races to cover his tracks and find the person who saw him. Of course, there's also a bit of suspicion from a rookie peer, detective Cha Dong-jae (Park Seo-joon). Any of this sound familiar? Well, the premise is nearly identical to 2014's A Hard Day, which made the first half of this narrative feel a bit slow and dull. It's not bad, but it doesn't start off very strong, especially when compared to A Hard Day. Fortunately, the film starts sprinting and differentiating itself during the latter half. It really comes full circle for a very strong finale – much stronger than A Hard Day.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Film Review: For The Emperor (2014)

For The Emperor (Review)
Park Sang-jun/Lee Min-ki/2014
Where To Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"The sheer lack of originality in this film leaves so much to be desired."

Lee Hwan (Lee Min-ki), a man with a promising baseball career, loses it all when he's caught in a match-fixing scandal. As he hits rock bottom, Hwan is recruited by Jeong Sang-ha (Park Sung-woong), a loan shark with his own criminal organization...

For The Emperor is your basic rise-to-power crime film. The film follows Lee Hwan – the always grave and ultra-cool young gangster looking for riches. (He's so cool, he doesn't crack a single smile throughout the film! That's dedication!) Hwan is recruited by Sang-ha, who basically seeks to groom Hwan into his right-hand man; Sang-ha is like a boss, a mentor, and a big brother rolled into one to Hwan. Together, their crime syndicate begins to rise using brutal force and typical strategy – knife fights and legitimizing business. Of course, with copious money and large egos involved, people were bound to clash. So, a power struggle ensues with Hwan and Sang-ha caught in the middle. There are some turns, there are some twists, but it ultimately leads exactly where you expect. The finale is very predictable and forgettable.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Film Review: Joint Security Area (2000)

Joint Security Area (JSA) (Review)
Park Chan-wook/Lee Young-ae/2000
Where To Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"The excellent direction, great writing, and splendid performances tower over the few minor issues I found."

Major Sophie E. Jean (Lee Young-ae) of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission begins investigating an incident in the DMZ that left two North Korean soldiers dead...

Joint Security Area follows Sophie as she delves into the mystery. You have two murdered North Korean soldiers, one wounded South Korean soldier, Sergeant Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byung-hun) and one wounded North Korean soldier, Sergeant Oh Kyeong-pil (Song Kang-ho). From the beginning, we are told Soo-hyeok was abducted, forcing him to kill the two North Korean soldiers in order to escape; from the other side, we're told Soo-hyeok voluntarily entered North Korea and attacked. Sophie, however, finds another piece to the puzzle. When too many bullets are discovered at the scene of the crime, Sophie suspects another party was involved in the shooting. The mystery unravels, revealing an unexpectedly simple but effective revelation – which I'd rather not spoil. The film leads to a great ending, too.