Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fantasia Daily for 21 July: Blades of Blood, Brass Knuckle Boys, Love in a Puff, Overheard

Not much to say. Saw some movies, gotta leave to see more now.

Goo-reu-meul Beo-eo-nan Dal-cheo-reom (Blades of Blood)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

Just who and what is Lee Joon-ik's Blades of Blood (aka Like the Moon Escaping from the Clouds) about? It takes the form of a movie about an "avenging the slain family" movie, but smothers that story under a thick pillow of political intrigue that is frequently more interesting but does not amount to much in the end.

See, Korea is poised to come apart at the seams. Japan sees it as a road through which to invade China, the King's advisers in the East and West cabinets reflexively oppose each other, and even the popular Great Alliance movement is having a crisis of leadership, with the aggressive Lee Mong-hak (Cha Seung-won) taking control when a more moderate leader dies. One of his first targets is prominent Western noble Han Shin-kyun (Song Yeong-chang). Only a few members of Han's family survive the bloodbath, but one is a son, Han Kyun-ju (Baek Seong-hyeon), who had been ostracized as a bastard by his brothers for being born of a concubine. Kyun-ju tries to avenge his father's death, but is no match for Mong-hak. Fortunately, blind swordsman and doctor Hwang Jeong-hak (Hwang Jeong-min) is nearby, and he nurses Kyun-ju back to health and allows him to join him on the road to confront Mong-hak.

Here's the trouble: The Kyun-ju story just isn't that interesting. There's moments when it could be, most of them opposite Baek-ji (Han Ji-hye), Mong-hak's concubine who winds up joinging him and Hwang on their journey. They strike up a friedship, and she challenges him on how he limits himself by allowing others to define him. But when all is said and done, he doesn't seem to mature that much and his story doesn't have any particular hook to it. It's just a guy being taken on by an odd mentor. Baek Seong-hyeon is actually quite good in the role, but the story doesn't give him anything great to do.

Full review at eFilmCritic.

Shonen merikensakku (Brass Knuckle Boys)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010)

Brass Knuckle Boys has two hugely funny scenes, including a flashback that is among the best rock 'n roll movie jokes I can remember. They're both in the beginning, though, and afterward, the movie grinds on for two hours being funny only in brief spurts, and the story becomes very arbitrary - the characters change how they're acting and do strange things for no apparent reason.

It's unfortunate, because the basic idea - record company accidentally signs punk band based on a video from 1983, straitlaced young girl must ride herd on them - is pretty good, and there's some genuine comedic talent on display. But the filmmakers seldom manage to capitalize on that potential.

Chi ming yu chun giu (Love in a Puff)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2010 in Theatre Hall (Fantasia 2010)

A cute little romance, shot handheld on the streets of Hong Kong as two people who meet during their smoke breaks hit it off, get cold feet, and get back together over the course of a week. It's got a pair of nice leads in Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung Chin-wah, a nice indie-film vibe, and enough good jokes and true-seeming moments to work very well.

Qie ting feng yun (Overheard)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 21 July 2010 in Salle de Seve (Fantasia 2010)

Not a bad crime thriller at all, I guess, but one expects more from the makers of Infernal Affairs, especially since this does have a pretty decent opening that sets up some interesting conflicts. Some of that becomes soap, though, and it is awfully hard to make insider trading a visually dramatic activity. The ending epilogue, as well, goes on long enough to sap the film of its energy and has a bit of a screwy ending.

I may wind up rating it higher when I have the time to really spend time thinking/writing about it, though. It is a pretty smart thriller, with a very nice cast and slick shooting. It may just have been a victim of late-night doldrums for me.

No comments: