Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Not much time for these imports My Best Friend's Wedding '16 and Operation Chromite

Does anybody else do the thing, starting on Tuesday, where you start refreshing Fandango and other movie ticket websites to see what will still be around on Friday because it looks awful tight to see everything you want by Thursday night and it would be really good to push something to its second week? No, just me?

Well, now that most of the showtimes for the weekend are out, it doesn't look like pushing one of these off would have done me any good; Wedding will be down to one early-afternoon show a day at Boston Common and Chromite one true matinee (10:15am) in Revere next weekend. Probably wouldn't do either, and probably shouldn't, as both of these films are just not very good, although not the sort of bad that makes me regret seeing them, though I've got a lower threshold for that than some (many). After all, I'm going to be down for Shu Qi (or a Korean action movie) no matter what.

The original plan was to catch them over the weekend, but it just didn't work out - baseball, apartment-hunting, and an adorable niece's birthday party were all much higher priorities, as they should be. Just make for a long Tuesday night, as there was no getting them nearly back-to-back. Nope, My Best Friend's Wedding played at 6:50pm and ran for 95 minutes plus two previews, and then Operation Chronicle didn't start until 10:20pm and was 115 minutes plus something close to the standard 20 minute preview package. Lucky to get home, but there was a lot of time to kill in between movies, enough to make me wish theaters still had game rooms.

Wo Zui Hao Peng you De Hun Li (My Best Friend's Wedding '16)

* * (out of four)
Seen 16 August 2016 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

I get why Chinese filmmakers have been remaking English-language romantic comedies a lot over the last few years; these are fun, crowd-pleasing stories that work better if there's some familiarity to the fantasy. Still, it's kind of weird to remake My Best Friend's Wedding with Chinese stars speaking Mandarin and then set it in London, right? It's the sort of thing that maybe makes one wonder if this hasn't been thought all the way through.

It makes a couple stops before London, starting in Beijing where Gu Jia (Shu Qi) is the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, about to head out to cover fashion week in Milan. Her assistant Ma Li (Ye Qing) has a packed schedule, but that all goes out the window when Jia's best friend since the age of three, Lin Ran (William Feng Shaofeng) calls and announces he's getting married the next weekend. Realizing she doesn't want anybody else to marry him, she heads for London where the situation is as bad as she thought; Meng Yixuan (Victoria Song Qian) is a millennial twit, but maybe Jia can stop this disaster with the help of Nick (Rhydian Vaughan), a good-looking Eurasian guy she met on the plane.

I doubt if I've seen the original American version since it's 1997 theatrical release, so it's not exactly close to my heart, but a big part of why it worked was that the secondary characters - the bride-to-be played by Cameron Diaz along with Rupert Everett more or less inventing the modern Gay Best Friend - were a bit more three-dimensional than you might expect, and their counterparts here don't stack up: Victoria Song's "Xuan Xuan" is not evil or awful or anything, and she's pretty, but when Jia has the chance to feed the allergic younger woman a cupcake with peanut butter in it, the audience's concern is entirely about how ruthless Jia is willing to be. Rhydia Vaughan's Nick, on the other hand, finds himself inserted and pulled out of the story entirely based upon momentary convenience - he's apparently well-off enough to be next to Jia in first class but tending bar when she has to stumble upon him later, and the filmmakers completely skip over Jia somehow convincing him to pose as her boyfriend in an effort to make Lin Ran jealous after he's been portrayed as wanting to give Jia a wide berth because she's a walking disaster.

Full review on EFC.

Incheonsangryookjakjun (Operation Chromite)

* * (out of four)
Seen 16 August 2016 in AMC Boston Common #10 (first-run, DCP)

It's no secret that South Korean entertainment companies have been looking to access the American market directly the same way that China and India do, even if they are more trying to translate their industry's great reputation into an audience the size that they feel it deserves than serve a large expatriate and emigrant population. Inserting a familiar western face into a movie is one way to get it a higher American profile, although audiences going to Operation Chromite under the impression that it stars Liam Neeson will likely be disappointed, though in a different way than folks looking for a truly great Korean War movie.

"Operation Chromite" was the name that American General Douglas MacArthur (Neeson) gave to the 15 September 1950 invasion of occupied South Korean at Incheon, a daring operation given one-in-five-thousand odds to succeed given the narrow harbor filled with mines, massive swells, and steep cliffs to be overcome. That's why the movie opens a couple weeks earlier, with Operation X-Ray, in which Lieutenant Jang Hak-soo (Lee Jung-jae) leads a group of eight ROK soldiers into the occupied city disguised as North Korean inspectors, their mission to discover the location for the mines and capture a crucially-placed lighthouse. Unfortunately for them, their zeal to accomplish this quickly has Colonel Lim Gye-jin (Lee Beom-soo) smelling a rat.

Though the film opens with a title card stating that it was based upon actual events, as near as I can tell that refers to the Incheon invasion itself, with the bulk of the film fictional (and the "Trudy Jackson" team never mentioned). War movies that take that tack are kind of odd - it seems disrespectful to insert fictional characters into actual events as being crucial rather than focusing on the biographical or telling smaller stories that can happen in history's margins. Instead, Operation Chromite takes a setup that seemingly demands a spy story's careful maneuvering and jumps to slam-bang action very early. It's got some room to build - the climax is a going to be massive naval bombardment with thousands of soldiers making a beachhead - but feels like it's climaxing early and then struggling to get back to trying to get back to the same level twice before the finale, doubly hard because the film occasionally jumps over to Tokyo where MacArthur is having meetings.

Full review on EFC.

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