Thursday, August 09, 2018

Along with the Gods, Parts 1 & 2

Still time to see Part 2 in AMC Boston Common if you can catch a matinee today, but you might have to catch up on the first one first, so good luck with that. Sorry, I'm bee watching a crap-ton of other Asian movies and back to work.

I recommend this as a two-night deal, though i suppose it could work as a marathon. I streamed the first via Amazon on Monday night, lucky enough that it was $5 to rent or buy, so this is the first movie I only own digitally. Seems wrong not to have something on the shelf, but okay. Went to the late-ish show on Tuesday because getting to a 6:15pm show in Boston Common after working in Burlington just isn't happening. It was the first ticket I bought using AMC's new Stubs A-List level, but those apparently require photo ID, which I didn't have on me, so I wound up buying a second one. Fortunately, Tuesday is $5 day, so it wasn't too big a hit.

Anyway, a big two-part Korean movie is not a bad way to ease myself out of Fantasia mode, even if it pushes getting everything written up back a bit.

Singwa hamgge: Joewa Beol (Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 6 August 2018 in Jay's Living Room (catch-up, Prime Video HD)

The thing that will likely throw non-Korean viewers about Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds is that it's not as much about the heroic fireman journeying through the afterlife on the way to potential reincarnation as one would surmise from the way he's centered on the posters - or indeed, as much as it probably should be. The first half of a two-part series, its plot is torn between Ja-hong's story and setting up The Last 49 Days, and even together that's not enough, although the filmmakers deliver enough impressive visions of hell to keep the audience's interest.

Make no mistake, firefighter Kim Ja-Hong (Cha Tae-hyun) died when he was supposed to, on 28 April 2017, saving a little girl while who was trapped in a burning high-rise, leaving behind a sickly mother (Ye Soo-jung) and a brother, Soo-hong (Kim Dong-wook), intent on finishing law school after his military service. Ja-hong has lived a good enough life to be classified as a Paragon, eligible for immediate reincarnation should he pass the seven trials in 49 days, which is good news for his Guardians and advocates as well - he would be the 48th Paragon that Gang-rim (Ha Jung-woo), Deok-choon (Kim Hyang-gi), and Hewonmak (Ju Ji-hoon) had shepherded to a new life, one short of the number necessary for them to reincarnate as well. But even Paragons can fail the trials, and Gang-rim must soon journey back to the living world because there appears to be a vengeful spirit connected to Ja-hong, and its existence has their 49 days speeding up and the group beset by hell-ghouls.

Ja-Hong's life is what drives the story here, and while we should all aspire to be considered a paragon when we die, it can be a little hard to wring a lot of drama out of that. There's a pattern set early of the trials uncovering that Ja-hong has sinned in the past, but generally for a noble reason, and he's such a good person that he can basically be waved past one or two stops but so out of his element that he can't directly contribute to his own defense (his trials are not punishing tasks but bits of courtroom drama with prosecutors, judges, and exhibits). It's fortunate that actor Cha Tae-hyun is able to project a very genuine-seeming, modest decency in the flashbacks and adds an unstated feeling of trauma to his time in the world of the dead; scenes that seem like that they could entirely be Ja-hong protesting too much about not being that good a man or being kind enough to be insufferable work a heck of a lot better than the dry going through the motions that seems like a straightforward acceptance of him being a Paragon would lead to.

Full review at EFC.

Singwa hamgge: Ingwa Yeon (Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 7 August 2018 in AMC Boston Common #10 (first-run, DCP)

The first part of the Along with the Gods two-parter, The Two Worlds, was good-looking but didn't quite have a story operatic enough to match its visual ambition, but it's clear right away that The Last 49 Days won't have the same problems - its Paragon isn't nearly as saintly as the one that came before, and all the things hinted at by the end of the last movie are primed to explode. It's not entirely a leap forward, as it winds up a bit weaker in places the other movie was strong, but it's enough of an improvement to make the whole a good combo.

(Spoilers ahead for those who have not yet seen The Two Worlds)

Full review at EFC.

No comments: