Saturday, 20 September 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: THE MAZE RUNNER





31/2/5

Thomas is awake without memories in the iron cage going up the shaft. When it surfaces he finds himself surrounded by the crowd of teenage boys in a glade, in the middle of a maze, which changes every night. Why are they here and how do they find a way out, considering that the labyrinth is full of deadly monsters called Grievers?

The plot of THE MAZE RUNNER is simple at its core, with a "big reveal" being solely disappointing. There are only a number of ways the ending could play out and if you had ever seen a fantasy movie you will probably figure it out the way I did. However there's a strange charm to the premise, and the setting and characters look mysterious enough to keep you interested.

Director Wes Ball, who had started his career as a visual effects specialist, is to be praised for his work on THE MAZE RUNNER - if the film is any good it is thanks to him and three screenwriters who penned the script. THE MAZE RUNNER the book had a few weak points, most of them was due to the lack of logic and some black and white painting of the characters and their motives. But in the film even the villain Gally can get our sympathies.

The book had a lot of sidetracks that would have slowed down the film, always trying to over explain everything and that was a major letdown personally for me while reading. The other problem of the novel were monsters Grievers. They were not scary at all, they were slow and reminded giant snails. In the  film they look more like space invaders from EDGE OF TOMORROW - fast and merciless. The duel between Thomas and a Grievers in the labyrinth in the middle of the film was definitely inspired.

There is nothing groundbreaking or original about THE MAZE RUNNER, but it turned a popular book into a solid engaging film which won me over, although I was very sceptical about it. Well designed, well acted and filled with some kick-ass action THE MAZE RUNNER can sustain multiple viewing and had definitely earned itself a pass for a sequel.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

KOFFIA MOVIE REVIEW: THREAD OF LIES (UAHAN GEOJITMAL)



5/5

Cheon-hi is 14 year old. She is different from everyone in the class and her classmates feel it. One day she comes back home after school and hangs herself without leaving a note. Her mother and older sister blame themselves for not recognising the signs of the approaching tragedy and try to figure out the reason for Cheon-ji suicide. To get to the bottom they will need to follow the thread of lies elegantly woven by Cheon-ji's classmates.

THREAD OF LIES is one of these rare films that combine the best of many genres. Bitter sweet drama at heart it is also a detective story. It is an honest and brave film that does not turn away from painful issues, dealing with the problem here and now and not letting go until the final truth is revealed.

For a film dealing with such a hard and painful issue as teenage suicide the thread of lies is surprisingly uplifting. Maybe because after the initial shock of the first ten minutes (it's pretty confronting even knowing  you in advance what's to come) it is hard to imagine how things can get even worse, hence starts the healing. It is probably movie's incredible honesty that will win you over, with fantastic performances coming from the young cast and the determination of the film to tell a good story instead of pushing the audience to to feel a certain way.

Above all THREAD OF LIES is a fabulously entertaining movie. Scenes are short, dialogues are snappy and characters are easy to relate to. The script approaches the villains in non judgemental way, making us identify with them stronger than we do with the protagonists. This is one of these films that one can get totally absorbed in, forgetting the world outside. Highly entertaining, THREAD OF LIES is an intelligent film for all ages, that makes its message clear without preaching.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

KOFFIA MOVIE REVIEW: ROUGH PLAY (BAEUNEUN BAEUDA)




21/2/5

Oh Young is an aspiring actor who is looking for his big break, but does everything wrong. His desire for constant improvisation is also a threat to the careers of his fellow actors. Things are about to get very bad, when a producer appears at his door to turn it all around. Oh Young is reluctant to obey the rules but takes his chance to succeed. It's not long until he becomes famous, but how long will it last? And is the fame a real reward for a true actor?

ROUGH PLAY (the real name is AN ACTOR WILL BE AN ACTOR) has a confusing structure. It's sketchy non-linear narrative makes it difficult to focus on the story, and the opening scene is hard to place even after the movie's final. From the beginning you are given a taste of what's to come, but it's just not enough to get you hooked. The story could have been interesting to watch if at least some of the characters were likeable, but they are all presented under the worst light possible, and the most annoying of them is Oh Young himself, heading straight to derailment even when we see him rise to fame.

ROUGH PLAY is not particularly violent, nor it is gruesome. There are moments of genuine tension, but that's it. Especially it is strange, when the poster is trying to sell us a thriller. What we get here is a little sad drama about people that never quite get it and can never appreciate what they've got.

By its final ROUGH PLAY carries too many loose ends to be a satisfying movie experience. What it achieves is to highlight the difference (and contradiction) between being a celebrity actor and a good actor in modern society. It's about the re-gaining the true joy of acting and a humbling effect that loosing everything may have on the ones who tasted fame and success.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

KOFFIA MOVIE REVIEW: MISS GRANNY (SUSANGHAN GEUNYEO)




4/5

74 year old Oh Mal-soon  is  not a very nice person. She is stingy and stubborn, she constantly fights with fellow seniors and ignores the love stricken friend, who had been in love with her since they were teens. To top it all she bullies her daughter in law so badly the poor woman ends up in hospital. I seems everyone had enough of this tyrant granny, so she is bound for the old people's home. This is when Oh Mal-Soon magically transforms into her 20 year old self. Also it comes as a surprise, the elderly lady finds this second youth tailor made for her. Quickly joining her grand son's rock band she takes it to the top of music charts. But even given a second chance, would she live the life any different?

MISS GRANNY (direct translation is A SUSPICIOUS GIRL) is number 13 in all time highest grossing films on South Korea, but does it work for a western viewer? The film is an enjoyable run, but most jokes and gimmicks fall on deaf ear because of their distinctively Korean nature. You also have to be able to enjoy Korean pop music, for MISS GRANNY has plenty of songs and they cover a significant amount of movie running time. Ticking off just over two hours the film never feel like dragging along, however from the western standard for comedies it could have been 20 minutes shorter.

The plot of MISS GRANNY is easy to relate to and this  must be the key of its success (Chinese remake is already in production).  The story however is a little one sided. It would be nice to discover how challenging youth could be in modern Korea and not just a song and dance. On the other hand it may be credible that our elderly heroine had become successful so quickly. Being 70 years old she has no fear of inexperienced and it is fear of failure that usually holds us back. Also for a comedy MISS GRANNY has plenty of genuinely sad moments it is a lighthearted entertainment that makes you feel a little bit better about yourself and the world around you.

Friday, 5 September 2014

KOFFIA MOVIE REVIEW: HIDE AND SEEK (SUMBAKKOKJIL)




5/5

A successful middle class family from Seoul find themselves visiting poor suburbs with unexpected consequences. The head of the family Seong-Soo is a stitched up bourgeois, suffering from mysophobia (the fear of containing germs) and guilt for abandoning his brother and letting him live in absolute poverty. It is the reason why Seong-Soo finds himself so far away from the life of the riches, discovering that his brother is long gone, together with many residents of a run down apartment block. It seems that the killer is on the loose. 

When happy family returns back to the city life, someone is following them from the suburbs. Now Seong-Soo has to uncover the mystery of his brother’s disappearance in time to save himself and the people he loves.

The first interesting thing about HIDE AND SEEK, a low budget Korean mystery / horror flick, which has become one of the highest grossing films of the last year in its home country, is how unlikable the protagonists are. We are meeting the elegant, but detached with reality wife, who threatens to leave her husband each time things go wrong; the children are spoilt brats, constantly demanding new toys and fighting with each other and Seong-Soon himself is enclosed in his little world of phobias. This family would not get your sympathies at first. But when bad things happen we see what they are truly capable of and what sort of people they are underneath their skin.

The story is a strong mystery, giving us an atmospheric creepy entry, and is moving on, catching up speed. The identity of the killer is revealed two thirds into the film, leaving the last thirty minutes for a spectacular knuckle biting showdown.


Comfortable middle class life is under threat in HIDE AND SEEEK, and this may be considered an idiom of SOUTH KOREAN society. The country being under the constant siege from it’s neighbour takes toll on everyone. But Director Huh Jung, who had won Korean association Film critic award as a best director for HINDE AND SEEK, is not focused on the outside danger, but gives an insightful image of a society perfect on the surface, but rotten at it’s gore. “The desire for the things we cannot have can drive one to insanity” is a prevailing message of the film. For the fortunate ones with money and power, turning away from the bad and dirty things, does not help solving the problem. Because if you cannot feel secure in the comfortable walls of your luxurious apartment block, then indeed there is no safe place left to hide.