Posts Tagged ‘review’

LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION a.k.a. BATTLE UNDER ORION [MANATSU NO ORION | 真夏のオリオン]

2010/06/01

http://www.manatsu-orion.com/

JAPAN 2009  Directed by: Tetsuo Shinohara  Written by: Yasuo Hasegawa, Harutoshi Fukui, Kenzaburo Iida  Novel: Tsukasa Ikegami, Kenzaburo Iida  Music: Taro Iwashiro Cast: Hiroshi Tamaki, Keiko Kitagawa, Yoshikuni Dochin, Yuta Hiraoka, Eisaku Yoshida, Toru Masuoka, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Masaya Kikawada, Taiga, Taku Suzuki, Kimito Totani, Akiko Nagayasu, David Winning, David Barnes, Eric Weidman, Joe Rayome

During the final days of World War II, a Japanese submarine and a US destroyer are fighting it out somewhere off the coast of Okinawa. Captain Koramoto is leading his men and the I-77 submarine to attack an American convoy, and while another submarine is destroyed by the Americans Koramoto and his men successfully sink several enemy ships – until the destroyer finds them and a life and death game between the two vessels and their captains begins.

LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION continues with the new wave of nationalist movies that have proven to be successful at the local box office. It is far more toned down and as objective as that is probably possible compared to other movies, leaving room for the views and feelings of the antagonists as well.

LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is a good attempt to show both sides of the coin called war, and in that respect the movie is very different. I wouldn’t really call it a naval action movie as even though it concentrates largely on the battle between the submarine and the destroyer LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION deals with questions of honor, justification of orders and the human side of conflict.

All that may not be more than skin-deep most of the time, but given that many movies of this kind are sole action films or nationalist propaganda LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is at least trying to give us a good story without black and white clichés and leaves the judging to the audience. From a Japanese perspective, this is probably as far as they are willing and able to go, even criticizing the notorious suicide missions designed to sacrifice people for the greater good.

What LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION clearly lacks however are originality and a more profound description of the characters. The latter often remain pale and semi-believable, partly thanks to some heartthrob actors, partly thanks to the script that is too careful and tame and almost seems to say sorry for its attempt of criticism as if it wants to make up for its objectivity with harmless characterization. The protagonists are simply too nice and considerate, nothing disturbs the perfect first impression and nothing adds to their predictable behavior throughout the movie.

LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION scores even lower in the originality department: you will find bits and pieces of many war movies and submarine flicks recycled here, but it is surprising to see how much the film as borrowed from the world’s greatest submarine drama of all time, the German epic DAS BOOT.

Wolfgang Petersen’s unsurpassed masterpiece has been the inspiration for many of the key scenes of LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION, and the copycat simply doesn’t live up to a comparison at all. DAS BOOT is in a league of its own, and looking at ORION from this angle quickly reveals how far LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is trailing behind. LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is a submarine whereas DAS BOOT is the submarine movie.

LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION is a welcome change from American naval films, but just as most projects out of Hollywood LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION doesn’t really add much to the genre. It even borrows its narrative framework from another iconic war movie – SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

So unless you are interested to see what comes out of a cross-breeding between SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and DAS BOOT you might as well skip LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION. If you are a fan of the genre however LAST OPERATIONS UNDER THE ORION offers a slightly different take on the subject and might be fine addition for completists.

J.


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NO MERCY [YONGSEONEUN EUPDA | 용서는 없다]

2010/05/24

http://www.nomercy2010.co.kr/

KOREA 2010  Directed & Written by: Kim Hyeong-Jun  Produced by: Kang Woo-Seok  Editing: Kim Sun-Min Cast: Seol Kyeong-Gu, Ryoo Seung-Beom,
Han Hye-Jin, Seong Ji-Roo,
Nam Kyeong-Eup, Lee Jeong-Woo,
Joo Sang-Wook, Ahn Eun-Jung, Kim Hyeok

Forensic pathologist Kang (Seol Kyeong-Gu) is assigned to examine the dismembered corpse of a female murder victim: head, arms and legs are all severed from the torso and one arm is missing. Kang quickly finds out that the place the body was found is not the murder scene and furthermore that this is not an isolated case of brutal violence but a message to the investigators. Soon all leads point to a fanatic environmentalist, Lee Sung-ho (Ryoo Seung-beom), as the primary suspect, but with his arrest the case is far from over. Kang’s daughter is kidnapped and a manipulative game begins that will drive Kang to the edge – and over.

It is safe to say that the Korean movie industry had lost it a while ago, had forgotten its strengths and instead indulged in producing a stupendous amount of lackluster movies throughout the last decade. There are signs that it gets back to form however, and one of these signs is NO MERCY.

The movie is deadly serious and displays a grim realism that is not for the faint-hearted. The opening scene alone will make some people think should I stay or should I go; starting like this shows that NO MERCY has chutzpah, and not too little. As it’s setting the benchmark early don’t be surprised that the movie continues to show you unsettling images and the world the way it is: in NO MERCY the harsh reality doesn’t undergo the Hollywood treatment, so if you prefer to see things through rose-colored glasses look elsewhere.

That alone is a quality most movies are missing, but NO MERCY feels even more intense and sinister due to the absence of humor (the “duel” between the female rookie and a senior detective is highly entertaining but never impacts the tonality) and the presence of the cast. Seol Kyung-Gu, Ryoo Seung-Beom and Han Hye-Jin are top-notch in their respective roles and drive the movie relentlessly forward.

The true backbone of NO MERCY however is the strong story: the quality of the script is excellent and it’s the true hero of the movie. Tight, stringent, logical yet very creative and full of plot twists the script is nothing short of awesome. Very few movies are blessed with such good writing, even in its most far-fetched moments NO MERCY looks good and plausible.

The surprises it delivers and the nihilistic conclusion are reminiscent of some of the best thrillers, namely Korea’s very own OLD BOY and SE7EN, for instance. If there’s anything to complain about NO MERCY then that it lacks originality in so far as we have seen its subject, subtext and motifs all before. But then, NO MERCY isn’t using them exactly the same way and is more than a simple amalgamation of familiar bits and pieces.

There’s one specific idea here that I’d like to point out as rather genuine and that without a doubt gives NO MERCY it’s very own touch of evil: Kang is forced to act and work against his own convictions and ethics from the beginning. What Lee asks from him is diametrically opposed to everything Kang is, knows, thinks or believes in. That makes Kang an enormously tragic figure and the finale offers no relief. It’s a one-way street for Kang, only that it’s all been mapped out by his adversary and Kang doesn’t realize it until the bitter end.

Not many movies dare to fundamentally depress their audience: NO MERCY is not a happy movie and hence it doesn’t gear towards a commercial happy end. Instead the reward for the open-minded audience is a sharp story with a determined, rational and yet surprising (more or less) ending that doesn’t compromise. So if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Kim Hyeong-Jun was so kind though as to present us NO MERCY wrapped in gorgeous visuals and a formidable soundtrack – it’s almost like a concession to ease the viewer’s pain. Even if it doesn’t really make NO MERCY more comfortable to watch – other than Kang at least the audience receives a bit of mercy after all.

J.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

2010/05/08

http://www.nightmareonelmstreet.com/

USA 2010  Directed by: Samuel Bayer Written by: Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer  Original Characters: Wes Craven Produced by: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller Cinematography by: Jeff Cutter  Editing: Glen Scantlebury  Music: Steve Jablosnky, Charles Bernstein Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Thomas Dekker, Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz

I guess by now everyone pretty much knows the story of Freddy Krueger killing teenagers in their sleep, thus causing their deaths in reality. It was just a matter of time until the recent horror classics remake wave would also reach A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the only question was if it would be Michael Bay or Rob Zombie doing NIGHTMARE 2010. So it’s Bay, appointing another music video / commercial director to helm NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010, and he chose Samuel Bayer who actually did Nirvana’s SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT video (which is a really lousy video in my opinion that doesn’t do the song justice).

Now those who grew up with all the original horror flicks hardly need any remakes, but looking at films like NIGHTMARE 2010 it becomes instantly clear that most of the kids watching these remakes have probably never ever heard about any of the originals. Also, their expectation towards pace of editing and visual language are entirely different – I assume today’s kids couldn’t concentrate for more than 10 minutes if watching the original HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13th or A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

Most of the latest remakes look and feel pretty much the same: the directors hardly have any signature style, the movies no trademark character. Well why would they, the originals already had all that, so why bother. They just have to fit the taste of a multiplex audience, and that’s probably the main difference here: the originals were made with a story in mind, the remakes are tailor-made to fit someone’s expectations, and it goes without saying that you can’t create an original by meeting the mass audience’s expectation.

Rob Zombie did a great job though with is first two movies, his remakes however are in no way better than Bay’s franchises. Zombie’s HALLOWEEN being a big disappointment I can’t say I’m too sad seeing Bay doing NIGHTMARE 2010. What’s the difference anyway.

NIGHTMARE 2010 has been slammed for being nothing but a kill-after-kill slasher. Strange. The original may be the original, but just like most slashers from the 80s it’s also hardly more than exactly that in the first place. Seeing NIGHTMARE as a Freudian shocker dealing with teenagers’ life conditions in American society most certainly overrates it. NIGHTMARE now and then is probably just a good story, something the Brothers Grimm could have come up with at some point, and it certainly does a great job toying with the audience blurring the line between dream and reality.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 is not all that bad, the script, direction and acting far better than many have written. I liked the slightly different take it took on the Krueger story and how he relates to the teenagers. It’s one thing I consider better if directly compared to the original. Otherwise it boasts many slasher movie clichés, just like the original, and hence is hardly surprising, but it’s still very effective and nightmarish enough to entertain. Its dream sequence transition technique is repetitive and too simple, but it works well towards the end of the movie when it helps revealing the past, which again I found more interesting than how it’s done in the original.

Watching A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 doesn’t harm, it may even kill some time. Was it necessary? No. It doesn’t add anything to the horror movie genre. Once you decide to watch it you’ll have to accept it’s a remake that doesn’t innovate but imitate, doing a decent job with the latter. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2010 might not be a nightmare of a movie. But it’s like a dream that’s forgotten the very moment you wake up.

J.